Lebanon to Adopt Eastern European Hardline Strategy for Syrian Refugees
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said on Wednesday he wanted Lebanon to resolve its Syrian refugee crisis by following the hardline approach of eastern EU states that have barred them. “I would like this attitude to be an inspiration for Lebanon, because every state must make national interests its top priority and at this moment Lebanon’s key national interest is the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland,” he told reporters in Prague. The foreign minister cited refusals by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept EU-proposed refugee distribution quotas when more than a million people came to Europe, mostly from Syria, in 2015-2016. During that period, many populist eastern European leaders criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open door” policy. Lebanon currently hosts 1.5 million Syrians, roughly a quarter of its own population, putting a strain on its water and electrical infrastructure. Most of the refugees depend on international aid. Despite recent calls by Lebanese officials to return the refugees to Syria, the United Nations has warned that conditions in the war-torn country remain unsuitable for such action.