Is Syria preventing a solution to the refugee crisis?
Everyone in Lebanon must make long-term calculations for the sake of their security and the future of their children
The former Lebanese cabinet of Najib Miqati evaded addressing the issue of Syrians fleeing to Lebanon and did not establish camps for them. The security forces failed to develop a security file for each refugee so parties took it upon themselves to do so. Proof of this could be seen in the organized buses that transferred refugees to the Syrian embassy in Yarze so that they could cast their votes "and elect President Assad forever." The refugees were sent off to vote after Lebanese parties conducted an accurate survey of where they live and contacted them to organize their activity.
Lebanon's refugee crisis
Lebanon is currently confronting a problem more dangerous than that of the Palestinians who sought asylum in Lebanon. A UNHCR report said more than 44,000 refugees were registered in May. The number of Syrian refugees receiving help from the UNHCR and its partners has thus increased to 1.92 million (1,034,000 are registered and 58,000 are awaiting registration).
So there are currently more than one million refugees some of whom are getting rid of their identification papers in order to become permanent refugees. Some of them visit their country on a weekly basis and are not afraid of the regime’s border crossings and checkpoints. The latter are technically turning into agents of the Syrian regime and are making use of the services provided by international organizations. They are also benefitting from the services of Lebanese apparatuses and institutions, one way or another.
Trying to address the matter
The current Lebanese government decided to begin addressing this issue, which may go beyond the capabilities of the state.
Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq did well when he issued a decision that combats fraud but protects real refugees from the regime’s violence. In order to organize the entry and exit of Syrians in Lebanon, he requested all Syrian refugees, including those registered with the UNHCR, not to cross back into Syria or else they would lose their refugee status.
The ministry said this measure was taken out of concern for maintaining security in Lebanon and preventing any friction or mutual provocation between Syrian refugees and their host communities in Lebanon.
The allies of the Syrian regime in Lebanon will object to this decision and consider it a response to the “march” toward polling stations. However, deep inside they know well how credible the whole electoral process was. They also know well the role that they played in pushing Syrians to cast their votes.
But they don't know - or rather it would catastrophic if they did – that wagering on the level of this thorny issue will not benefit anyone and that those who previously wagered on the Palestinians ended up regretting it.
Everyone in Lebanon must make long-term calculations for the sake of their security and the future of their children.
They must break free a little from the tutelage imposed on them and address the issue of Syrians seeking asylum. Lebanon can bear no more and it will be liable to a new explosion.
This article was published in An-Nahar newspaper on June 2, 2014.
Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni