Lebanese President, Ministers Agree on Strategy for Syrian Refugees’ Return
Lebanon’s Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar said Monday, following a meeting with Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and President Michel Aoun at the president’s official residence, Baabda Palace, that the three agreed on steps needed for a strategy to return Syrian refugees to their homeland. “We [Hajjar and Bou Habib] have agreed with President Aoun on many points related to the Syrian refugees’ return plan, and we coordinated our positions hoping to hold more meetings next week to agree on the basic steps to be taken to start with the return process,” said Hajjar, in a statement released by the Lebanese Presidency. Hajjar also said there was ongoing coordination with Syria on the matter. Lebanon announced on July 4 a plan to send back 15,000 displaced Syrians monthly. But the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says Syria is not yet a safe destination. Lebanon wants to implement the plan regardless of what the UN says. It hosts the world’s largest number of refugees per capita, with around 1.5 million Syrian refugees and 500,000 Palestinian refugees living among 5.3 million Lebanese nationals. Since late 2019 Lebanon has been buckling under one of the world’s worst financial crises in 150 years, which has left skyrocketing unemployment, inflation, fuel shortages, and currency devaluation in its wake, and its government says the influx of refugees has taken a heavy toll on the country’s economy and infrastructure.