Syrian refugee children walk in a muddy alley at an unofficial refugee camp in the village of Dayr Zannoun in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley on January 31, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The United Nations has called on countries around the world to increase their support for the states hosting refugees from Syria, saying their dwindling resources could cause social and civil tension.
“What we see at the moment is more tension between communities, we see demonstrations by some communities between the others,” Mireille Girard, the UN refugee agency’s representative in Lebanon, said on Monday.
Lebanon, Syria’s small neighbor to the southwest, has been one of the main countries hosting refugees fleeing the six-year-old war in Syria. The UN estimates that one million Syrians have fled into Lebanon since the war started in March 2011. Beirut puts the figure some 1.5 million, which is around a third of Lebanon’s native population.
Girard said countries like Lebanon have already felt the social impacts of the swelling population of Syrian refugees, adding that poverty and lack of support has caused problems for host nations.
“The levels of vulnerability of people have increased tremendously over the last two years … If they don’t pay bills, they don’t pay their rent, they accumulate debt — this is a cause of social tension,” the UN official said, adding, “We see some xenophobia mounting a bit.”
This photo taken on January 30, 2016 shows young Syrian refugees standing at Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan. (Photo by AFP)
The comments came days ahead of a conference in Brussels, where states like Lebanon will seek to secure new funding and resettlement pledges from the international community.
Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri would be a key figure attending the meeting, with reports suggesting that he would request more than USD 10 billion for the next five to seven years.
The premier warned last week that Lebanon had already reached a “breaking point” and a “crisis” over the number of Syrian refugees, saying that the risk of “civil unrest” in his country was looming large.
Girard said the conference in Brussels will mainly focus on attracting funds for infrastructure, saying that could also benefit the host communities by creating jobs and improving services.
“The refugee situation is not one country’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem, and everyone has to respond together,” she said.
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