Lebanon asks for $180 million to aid Syrian refugees

Fri Jan 4, 2013 8:50am EST
 

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon, now a haven for 170,000 Syrians fleeing civil war, has asked foreign donors for $180 million to help care for them and said it will register and recognize refugees after a year-long hiatus.

The Beirut government has officially sought to "dissociate" itself from the 21-month-old struggle in Syria, nervous about the destabilizing impact of the increasingly sectarian conflict in its bigger neighbor on its own delicate communal balance.

But there has been pressure from humanitarian agencies and the public to do more to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The cabinet, which approved the measures after a six-hour session on Thursday night, rejected a proposal by Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, a Christian, to close the border to stop the influx into Lebanon, where mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian refugees now account for almost 5 percent of the population.

Bassil belongs to the Free Patriotic Movement, part of a political alliance with Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

However, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Thursday that the border should stay open for refugees.

Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour told reporters after the cabinet debate: "The Lebanese state will register the refugees...and guarantee aid and protection for the actual refugees in Lebanon."

Until now Syrian refugees have found shelter with local communities in Lebanon, rather than being housed in camps, as in the other two main host countries, Jordan and Turkey. Abu Faour did not say if camps would now be constructed.

"FIRST CONCRETE PLAN"   Continued...

 
Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (5th from bottom) presides a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Dalati Nohra/Handout