Lebanon drowns in the quicksand of refugees as the International Community watches on

Faour: Refugees outnumber the Lebanese, and the solution is with a higher council for the displaced

Report by Rima Youssef

Translation by Rasha Zantout

NNA – The deep connection between Professor Ali Faour and Lebanon’s roots and geography is not new. We have all been educated at school by his geography books, and these days he carries the burden of the nation and its endless troubles, most primarily the large number of refugees, which has become unbearable in light of the International Community’s indifference. Add to it financial troubles weighing over Lebanon.

In a talk with the National News Agency, Professor Faour sited the number of Palestinian, Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees as well as foreign workers who now outnumber the Lebanese. For this the High Commissioner for Refugees has dubbed this crisis as the gravest in the 65 year history of the HCR, i.e., since World War II.  Faour stated that “establishing a Higher Council for the Displaced has become a necessity, as it can map out a way to organize matters.”

“Lebanon is passing through a critical phase with many socio-economic and political challenges, and the biggest is the demographic change,” said Faour, “Lebanon is considered the first country in the world in the number of refugees compared to the number of native population…and the first to have an equal number of natives and refugees.”

Faour explained that Lebanon’s small area of 10452 square kilometres makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Add to that a large number of non-Lebanese and poor census count that dates back to 1932 with sample statistics in 1970, 1990 and 2004 which exclude Palestinian refugees, as nobody truly knows their number in Lebanon.

“Based on most recent estimates and HCR sources, there are 7.5 million people living in Lebanon, and over half of those are non-Lebanese…which means there is a grand imbalance concerning the number of residents, especially that the country is suffering from shortage in natural population growth due to immigration. Thus, Lebanon is losing 50 thousand people a year, while in return the natural growth is 25 thousand people a year. Henceforth, there is a deficit for the population in Lebanon with the influx of immigrants, refugees, household workers, people without IDs and the children of Lebanese women married to foreign men.”

Faour went on to say that there are around 1.5 million Syrian refugees registered at the HCR, and another million not registered. All this amounts to great demographic imbalance in Lebanon, which can only increase in upcoming years, especially with the immigration of Lebanese youth particularly the educated ones. This also led to a drop in marriages, and consequently in births.

“There are no young men in the country and many single women will have to marry non-Lebanese.”

Another demographic problem facing Lebanon is in an imbalance among sects.

“The Bekaa, for example, includes 475 thousand resident Lebanese who leave for the suburbs of Beirut during winter. The number of refugees, in accordance to HCR statistics, is 430 thousand registered refugees,” in short, Faour stated that the Bekaa has become one big refugee camp.

“Another problem occurred last winter with four major storms that hit the poorly equipped refugee camps.”

Faour confirmed that over half of the refugees are under the age of 17, and there are over 80 thousand refugee children under the age of five in Bekaa.

“The International Community has truly abandoned Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and left them for the state to deal with them. But Lebanon is small and cannot handle over two million refugees. This is not right and a grave human injustice.”

The World Food Program has halted aid at the end of 2014, according to Faour. This has left 225 thousand refugee children helpless.

“Here I focus on an important point, which is that the great world powers have abandoned the refugees.”

Human Rights laws and amnesty organizations confirm this abandonment. 28 EU countries in addition to the United States vowed to take only 350 thousand of the four million refugees present in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. This is a very small number especially that said countries have given up aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon for fear of terrorist attacks.

“Europe is in dire need of refugees and workers to combat the aging process that will peak among its citizens by 2050,” Faour explained that a staggering 65 million people are needed to solve Europe’s problems. However, European countries are selecting the educated and qualified refugees and leaving all the rest to face their fate alone.

With poor refugees taking shelter in underprivileged and underdeveloped rural areas in Lebanon, the solution according to Faour could only be in establishing a Higher Council for the Displaced that could take viable decisions to aid those in need.

He voiced appreciation for the Ministry of Social Affairs, and called upon the ministries of Justice and Health to work in tangent with it to reform the status quo of refugees and resident Lebanese.

تابعوا أخبار الوكالة الوطنية للاعلام عبر أثير إذاعة لبنان على الموجات 98.5 و98.1 و96.2 FM

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