| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Akar at Brussels conference: we urge international community’s support in developing voluntary, dignified return plan for displaced

Deputy Prime Minister and caretaker Minister of Defense, Zeina Akar, delivered a speech during her participation in the Fifth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region,” which was held virtually, and whereby she emphasized that “ten years have passed since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis and eighteen months have passed since the beginning of the largest economic and social crisis in its modern history,” noting that “amid this crisis, Lebanon finds itself torn, exhausted, and unable to continue, having hosted the displaced Syrians wholeheartedly.”

“Today, the Lebanese government lacks the necessary means to secure the most basic rights for Lebanese citizens and displaced Syrians alike,” she said. “Obtaining double and targeted international assistance has become an urgent necessity, not only to protect the basic human rights of displaced Syrians, but also to maintain social cohesion and stability in the country, at a time when the security situation is getting more dangerous.”

Tackling the coronavirus reality, the Minister of Defense urged “humanitarian actors to provide more support to ensure wider coverage within the framework of the vaccination campaign against this virus.”

She also stressed added that the education sector required continuous support. “Given the deteriorating social and economic conditions, schools must increase their capacity and resources,” she pointed out, “hence, the necessity of securing basic aid to expand school enrollment opportunities.”

“It is also important to ensure a fair and equal distribution of aid between the Lebanese and the displaced Syrians, especially after we have witnessed an increase in tensions and security incidents due to bias in the distribution of aid,” Akar noted.

“This comes at a time when we see an increase in competition for job opportunities between the Lebanese and displaced Syrians, and a deterioration in the Lebanese purchasing power and their livelihoods. 55 percent of them are poor today, and this percentage is expected to rise to 75 to 80 percent by the end of this year. Therefore, providing assistance to the Lebanese people is an urgent necessity not only on the humanitarian level, but also to contain the security situation and ensure stability in the region. ”

The minister underlined the necessity of “obtaining emergency aid with the aim of rehabilitating prisons and boosting their capacity to avoid the risk of increasing chaos.”

In conclusion, Akar said: “Ten years, yes, ten whole years have passed since the displaced have borne the burden of waiting, and Lebanon shouldered burdens that exceed its capacity. With the improvement of the situation in Syria, and the restriction of safety in Lebanon more than ever before, the option of voluntary return must be seriously considered, along with a relentless pursuit of a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Today, we ask the international community to support the development of a voluntary return plan for the displaced that guarantees their repatriation with dignity. Time is money. The security situation is almost out of control, and securing immediate support for the Lebanese and displaced Syrians has become an urgent necessity.”

  • Lebanese National News Agency