Lebanon Says No Syrian Refugees

Lebanon Says No Syrian Refugees Lebanon Says No Syrian Refugees

Lebanon has all but sealed its borders to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, overwhelmed by an influx of over one million people who have fled the fighting, officials said Saturday.

Quoted by Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said that Lebanon “no longer officially receives any displaced Syrians”.

He said exceptions would be available for refugees for “humanitarian reasons”, and that cases would be judged by Lebanon’s social affairs and interior ministries.

“We informed (the UN refugee agency) UNHCR that we are no longer able to receive displaced people,” he added.

Ninette Kelley, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, confirmed increased restrictions at the border with Syria.

“Our understanding is that people who are coming to claim refugee status are not being permitted to enter in the way that they were previously,” she told AFP.

“What we’ve seen over the last two to three weeks is that there are greater restrictions... We’ve seen that there are fewer people approaching us for registration which is also indicative of tightening of the border.”

Kelley said there were no precise figures on the number of refugees allowed to enter.

“Some days there are refugees that are allowed in, and there’s other days where it’s only a few.”

Lebanon has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, with one in four residents a refugee, many of them living in the poorest areas.

The government has said it cannot cope with the more than a million Syrians and has asked for funds to help look after them.

Turkey hosts about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, including almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds from Kobane, a Kurdish town in northern Syria that is under siege by IS militants.

UNHCR has regularly urged the international community to provide Lebanon with greater assistance to tackle the influx.

The agency has also called on other countries to open their doors to fleeing Syrians to ease the burden on Lebanon and other neighboring states.

More than three million Syrians have fled their country since the uprising that began in March 2011, with most taking shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.