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UN Groups: 30,000 Refugees Flood Into Lebanon Monthly

As more and more refugees flee the conflict in Syria, Mohammad Harfoush notes that these displaced citizens are severely affecting the delicate internal situation in Lebanon.
A Syrian family fleeing the violence in their country, sit inside their car as they queue at the Lebanese-Syrian border, in al-Masnaa December 18, 2012. More than 1,000 Palestinian refugees living in Syria have crossed into Lebanon in the past 24 hours, a source at the Lebanese border said on Tuesday, after Syrian rebels took control of a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi  (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)

The civil war in Syria shows no sign of ending, and Syria’s future hangs in the balance. The conflict has shifted to the stage of division of power through the division of land under the slogan of supporting the opposition coalition, the military resolution and the transitional phase, which is based on revenge and on settling scores with blood and violent behavior.

Consequently, Syria has entered a phase of plots, ambitions and greedy desires for effective authoritarian power within sectarian and categorical regions or squares. As a result, more Syrian and Palestinian refugees are pouring into Lebanon, generating more imbalances at the economic level and affecting security and the standard of living.

In this framework, reports indicated that 200,000 Syrian refugees were registered by UN organizations, in addition to thousands of unregistered citizens who left Syria for Lebanon. It is expected that this influx will reach half a million by 2013, leaving its repercussions on the delicate internal situation, especially if the conflict in Syria persists with no end in sight.

Regarding the Palestinian influx, reports stated that 2,000 families, or around 13,000 Palestinians, have moved to Lebanon and have been dispersed in the Ain Al Helweh, al-Badawi, al-Rashidiyeh and al-Bass camps.

This influx came as a result of security developments in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus and its shelling by the Syrian air force, in the wake of defections within the Popular Front — General Command. This group is led by Ahmad Jibril, a supporter of the Syrian regime. Jibril moved to Tartus with his supporters after the opposition took control of the front’s locations in the aforementioned camp.

In the coming stage, the number of Palestinian refugees entering Lebanon from Syria is expected to rise drastically, since Lebanon, followed by Jordan, is the best place for Yarmouk’s residents to take refuge.

Apart from the accuracy of incoming information about the influx of members of Palestinian jihadist organizations among the ranks of refugees coming to Lebanon and the residence of most of them in the Ain Al Helweh camp, what is being reiterated in this regard is logical.

The refugees from Syria include both Syrians and Palestinians carrying their affiliations, conflicts and anger with them to Lebanon. Consequently, the real concerns in this framework lie in the possible inclination of some refugees from Syria to stir the security situation in highly sensitive Lebanese regions like Ain Al Helweh, where there are tensions between regions controlled by Hezbollah and the Amal movement.

Political and security concerns have increased since a large number of refugees have entered the country, especially Palestinians, in light of the present historical tension. Moreover, the fears of the temporary becoming permanent appeared amidst settlement dangers lurking on the horizon and calls for tracking and following refugees, notably the ones taking shelter in the camps.

Such concerns are justified in a politically complicated and overly sensitive country like Lebanon, but they are exaggerated. Perhaps some political parties are trying to benefit from this dramatization, yet there is still a need for periodic security and political follow-up regarding the fear that people are infiltrating into Lebanon — or the camps in particular — and plan to cause destruction by inciting conflict among various factions. 

In any case, although this influx of Syrians is a heavy burden that Lebanon cannot bear alone, and although the government has respected its moral and humanitarian obligations, the controversy here lies in the racist calls voiced by some ministers who were not ashamed to demand the closing of the border under the pretext that the Palestinian and Syrian influx has exceeded its limits.

UNHCR Lebanon Representative Ninette Kelley indicated that, over a one-year span, Lebanon has received more than 150,000 refugees, this is the figure registered by UN organizations. Moreover, she pointed out that Lebanon has the highest number of refugees compared with other countries in the region and was one of the countries most affected by the Syrian crisis.

Kelley revealed that the commission noted the influx of around 30,000 people per month.

Mohammed Harfoush is a Lebanese journalist reporting for the Kuwaiti Al-Anbaa newspaper and the author of Eritrea: Basic Facts.

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