| 1 December 2023, Friday |

Lebanon holds onto plan to return Syrian refugees back home

The Lebanese cabinet has stuck to its plan to discuss with Damascus the repatriation of Syrian refugees, despite the decision of caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib not to head a ministerial delegation commissioned to tackle the issue with Syria, Lebanese ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday.

They said a solution to this issue is under discussion to continue the work of the Lebanese ministerial committee commissioned to address the refugee crisis.

The sources said the ministerial committee will operate even after Bou Habib said he would not head the delegation to Syria.

“The solution will be either by appointing another minister to head the delegation or tasking the committee to carry out its work bilaterally, or in other words to task concerned Lebanese ministers to hold direct meetings with their Syrian counterparts,” they said.

The sources denied any political obstacles to the cabinet’s plan to solve the Syrian refugees crisis with Damascus.

Meanwhile, Lebanese parties continued to express rejection to the European Parliament vote in favor of a resolution supporting the continued presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The Free Patriotic Movement called on its supporters to protest outside the Delegation of the European Union in downtown Beirut at 6:30 pm Tuesday.

MP Adib Abdel Massih spoke about meetings he and a number of Lebanese deputies held during a recent visit to Europe.

Abdel Massih said he was not surprised by the decisions of the European Parliament regarding the Syrian refugees.

The deputy called on the Lebanese parties and spiritual leaders to unite and demand the implementation of Lebanese laws with regard to foreign labor, border control and residency.

He said Lebanese authorities should be strict in applying the laws and then place a plan to move all refugees in border camps in preparation for their deportation to safe areas in Syria.

“The Foreign Minister should also file a complaint with the Arab League and the United Nations, and to request the Security Council or the General Assembly to decide on this sovereign matter that exposes Lebanon to dire and dangerous consequences, especially since Lebanon has not signed the Refugee Treaty of 1951,” Abdel Massih said.

He warned that the number of refugees will exceed Lebanon’s population in 2030, saying the direct and indirect costs of refugees on the Lebanese economy is about $46 billion over 10 years.

“It is approximately 20 percent of the GDP, while the public debt will exceed 550 percent of the GDP in 2027, not to mention an unemployment rate that exceeds 40 percent and an average of 7 out of 10 people who cannot cover their health bill of medicines and hospitalization,” Abdel Massih said.

In return, he noted, refugees have full health coverage and social benefits that will increase their birth rate in Lebanon.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat