Seven-year-old Raghed, a Syrian refugee, stands on a trash pile at an informal refugee settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. (Sam Tarling/CRS)
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Lebanon should encourage the resettlement of Syrian refugees into camps inside Syria, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said Friday, warning that Cabinet’s official refugee policy was insufficient to reduce the high number of refugees in the country.
Bassil’s comments came during a meeting with a delegation of former MPs headed by Michel Maalouli, a former deputy speaker, who gave the minister the delegation’s proposal to relocate refugees into camps inside Syrian territory.
According to a ministry statement, Bassil explained that relocating the refugees would require coordination with the Syrian authorities, an action rejected by the Cabinet’s March 14 ministers.
He went on to say that the Cabinet’s refugee policy contained “some acceptable measures, but not enough to significantly reduce the number of Syrian refugees.”
To achieve a notable reduction in the numbers of Syrian refugees would require “hard choices” Bassil said.
Lebanon, whose own population is estimated at around 4 million, hosts approximately 1.2 million refugees, who have fled the ongoing civil war in neighboring Syria.
After the meeting, Maalouli warned that the Syrian refugee crisis was “threatening Lebanon’s existence.”
“The wars that went on in Lebanon for years would not have happened if not for the presence of Palestinian refugees, who are now only 10% of the number of Syrian refugees,” he claimed, giving an inaccurate estimation.