Lebanon seeks repatriation of Syrian refugees
By Nathan Morley
The Lebanese Prime Minister has called on the UN to help authorities secure a safe return for Syrian refugees to their homeland.
As it stands, Lebanon continues to host the largest number of refugees per capita; with the government estimating two million Syrian refugees are in the country.
Now, however, the Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has told Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR - that the issue remains a pressure factor on Lebanon at a time when the country no longer has the financial and political capacity to assist.
Over the last few years, Lebanon has been witnessing the worst financial crisis in its history amid a shortage of foreign currency reserves which caused the collapse of the Lebanese pound and a steep rise in inflation.
Compounding matters, the outbreak of coronavirus and the Beirut port explosions caused hundreds of thousands of citizens to lose their jobs, sending the unemployment rate spiraling to over 40 percent.
Mikati said the priority was to return the displaced Syrians gradually to their country as the situation has stabilized in Syria.
Increasing humanitarian support
In his meeting with Mikati, Grandi spoke of the incredible pressure imposed on Lebanon for hosting an enormous number of Syrians, and assured the United Nations would increase its humanitarian support for the Lebanese people and everyone in the country.
Grandi said that UNHCR is working with Syrian authorities to remove obstacles preventing the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, adding some of the challenges included destroyed houses and a difficult economic situation.
The bleak situation in Lebanon has prompted the World Food Programme to allocate US5.4 billion to provide the country with food support from 2023 to 2025.
The food aid will be distributed among vulnerable families and Syrian refugees.