Hector Al-Hajjar, Lebanon’s Minister of Social Affairs, presented the country’s speech during the sixth session of a conference titled “The Future of Syria and the Region,” which was held in Brussels, Belgium.
Al-Hajjar stated in his speech that Lebanon today hosts about 1.5 million “displaced” Syrians out of a total population of four million.
“These Syrians are ‘displaced’ and not ‘refugees’ — they constitute 30% of the country’s population, with a density of 650 people per square kilometer,” Al-Hajjar said.
“They live in tents, under inhumane conditions, distributed over 1,000 out of the 1,050 Lebanese towns. They arrived in Lebanon deprived of all resources and their situation is extremely fragile. Yet, what are the consequences of receiving them in Lebanon for eleven years?” Al-Hajjar pondered.
The Minister of Social Affairs then listed a number of economic, security, social, and environmental consequences that Lebanon currently endures due to the displaced Syrian’s stay in Lebanon.
“First, the economic consequences:
Drying up foreign currency reserves, as the displaced benefit from state-subsidized services, such as energy resources: electricity, fuel, and water; medical services: hospitalization and medication; food items: as bread and others,” Al-Hajjar explained, noting that the aforementioned consumption represented the following:
* In energy: additional state spending amounting to USD one billion annually.
* On subsidized bread: an additional expenditure of up to USD three billion.
“Not to mention that Lebanese nationals have lost many job opportunities, as most of the displaced Syrians are engaged in a competitive and illegal economic activity, without contributing to paying taxes,” he added.
Al- Hajjar then listed the following security consequences:
“An increase in the number of robberies and crimes. According to official statistics: 85% of crimes are committed by IDPs and 40% of the detainees held by various security apparatuses are Syrians. There’s a stark return of the mafia phenomenon: drug mafias, smuggling, and human trafficking. In addition, there’s difficulty in maintaining social order, and the security services are incapable of controlling illegal immigration across the sea.”
Al-Hajjar then listed the social consequences of the displaced Syrian’s stay in Lebanon.
“One of the major social consequences is the demographic transition of the population: every time two children are born, one of them is a Syrian national. There’s also the delinquency of Syrian youth who grow up in poor social, economic, and educational conditions, illegal child labor as a result of school dropouts, increasing cases of early marriage of girls — as young at ten years old — child and organ trafficking, as well as continuing conflicts between the Lebanese and the displaced,” Al-Hajjar said.
The Minister of Social Affairs finally listed the the environmental consequences, such as excessive demand for health resources, as well as an exacerbated solid waste crisis in light of the high cost of treating it, which amounts to an additional $30 million per year.
“We cannot forget the great damage caused to the Lebanese infrastructure as a result of the increase in its users,” he added.
“After this detailed presentation of the burden that Lebanon has borne for the past 11 years due to the presence of displaced Syrians across its territories,
it is necessary to shed light on Lebanon’s current situation, as it is going through one of the most severe economic, financial, social, and political crises. The result is that 85% of the Lebanese people live under the poverty line. Therefore, Lebanon relies on the international community for its support in order to save displaced Syrians and the Lebanese community alike, and calls on you to ensure a safe and immediate return of displaced Syrians to safe areas in their homeland, repurpose the current financial aid and allocate it to invest in infrastructure in safe Syrian areas, encourage the reception of displaced Syrians who lack reasons to return to their country to live in alternative countries other than Lebanon, and most importantly, compensate for Lebanon, which has so far incurred losses estimated at approximately USD thirty billion, through a plan distributed over a specific period of time,” Al-Hajjar said as listing the requirements and the roadmap to ease the burden of displaced Syrians on Lebanon.
“We thank the European Parliament for welcoming us to this forum. We are confident that – together – we will succeed in implementing solutions that respect the dignity of displaced persons, and the dignity of those who host them alike,” Al-Hajjar concluded.