ASIA/LEBANON - The refugees from Syria threaten the fragile Lebanese balance

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Beirut (Agenzia Fides) - The Syrian refugees who have found refuge in Lebanon are now more than a million. This was revealed by the International Crisis Group (ICG), the independent non-governmental Organization committed to the resolution of conflicts that in its last report just published focuses on the possible destabilizing effects of the massive influx of refugees on the fragile balance of a Country whose National population is just over 4 million people. "A population influx of such magnitude," the ICG analysts point out "would be a huge problem anywhere. In Lebanon - with fragile institutions and infrastructure; a delicate political and secterian balance; tense social fabric; and declining economy - is a nightmare. "
The impact of the mass of refugees is also reflected in phenomena such as increased congestion in towns and villages, soaring rents, the escalation of crime. But according to the ICG report, the influx of refugees is especially likely to precipitate latent conflicts that cross the Lebanese society.
The Syrian refugees, predominantly Sunnis, hostile to the regime of Assad, have become concentrated in the areas of Lebanon of Sunni majority, following the criterion of confessional homogeneity. But even there - the ICG report says -"patience begins to run out." Stereotypes and prejudices on the Syrians resurface considered ignorant, criminals or irregular soldiers. Hostility which assumes even stronger colors between Shiites and Christians. The Shiite militants of Hezbollah fear that the anti-Assad Sunnis might eventually increase activism against their movement. While the Christians, in constant alarm for a demographic equilibrium that penalizes them more and more, the uncontrolled influx of Syrian refugees recall the tragic period of the Lebanese civil war and the role played in it by the presence of militarized Palestinian refugee camps.
The ICG stresses some practical advice: According to the authors of the document, "we need to put the issue of refugees at the centre of the next government program." Pressure on Western countries and the Arab countries need to be increased making it priority of the forthcoming ministerial program, which will also facilitate the granting of visas for Syrians fleeing the civil war. In particular, the group of donor Countries must absolutely "make available one billion dollars estimated as necessary for the reception of refugees in Lebanon as from now up to December 2013." In addition, the rescue plans must also be made by extending support to the poorest of the Lebanese population. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 14/05/2013)