One year after its inaugural meeting, the International Support Group for Lebanon continues to channel the global community’s concern for the stability of the Middle Eastern country, particularly as crises continue to engulf the region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
Last September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Support Group to help the country tackle its multiple challenges, including hosting such a large number of refugees.
“Lebanon hosts the highest ratio per capita of refugees in the world,” Mr. Ban stated, adding that even though mechanisms have been put into place to ensure the efficient provision of assistance, the country received “far less assistance than it needs.”
“As long as the region is aflame and the war in Syria continues, the rights and safety of refugees in Lebanon must be respected in accordance with international humanitarian norms. But the strains on Lebanon will remain immense and the burden it is bearing must be shared,” Mr. Ban continued.
As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has registered over 950,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon – now constituting 25 per cent of the total population.
Also, the number of registered Syrian refugees does not include the hundreds of thousands of Syrians that are living in Lebanon without having asked for assistance, or the over 50,000 Palestinians who have fled to Lebanon since the start of the conflict, adding to the 270,000 that were already there.
If the current influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon – some 12,000 every week – continues, there could be over 1.6 million of them registered in the country by the end of this year. The presence of such a large number of refugees is exerting unprecedented pressure on public services and communities hosting the refugees.
Turning to the political situation inside the country, Mr. Ban called for Lebanese stakeholders to unite in order to expedite the country’s presidential elections.
The term of the last Head of State, Michel Sleiman, ended on 25 May, and the Lebanese Constitution specifies that parliament members must convene to elect a new president before the deadline passes.
“Lebanon’s ability to weather the storm requires the effective functioning of all of the institutions of the State,” he affirmed.
“I urge all of Lebanon’s leaders to engage in dialogue now and make the compromises essential for the election of a President without further delay.”