Hariri: We'll Never 'Force' Refugees to Return Home, Will Only Address Issue with U.N.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Friday that he is in favor of a “speedy and safe return” by the Syrian refugees to their country, while stressing that Lebanon will only negotiate such a move with the United Nations and not with the Syrian regime.
“We are in support of a speedy and safe return of the Syrian displaced. However, we will, under no circumstances, force the Syrian displaced to return to Syria,” Hariri told the Second High Level Steering Committee Meeting at the Grand Serail.
“We will only address this issue in close coordination and joint planning with the U.N. and its specialized agencies,” he emphasized.
The meeting was held in the presence of the ministers Marwan Hamadeh, Jebran Bassil, Nouhad al-Mashnouq and Pierre Bou Assi, President Michel Aoun's adviser Elias Bou Saab, Hariri's adviser on refugees Nadim Mounla, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag, representatives of U.N. agencies and heads of missions of many embassies.
“We are witnessing a rise in tensions between Syrians and Lebanese, which confirms the exhaustion of the host communities,” Hariri warned.
“Of equal concern, the level of disbursement of humanitarian aid to Lebanon to date is less than half the assistance reported last year during the same period. Moreover, pledges for 2018 and beyond remain limited, thereby constraining the crucial multi-year assistance programs like RACEII,” he cautioned.
Hariri underlined that Lebanese authorities will however make sure that the conditions for the return of refugees are “properly met and in accordance with international law.”
“The burden of the Syrian displaced crisis has been very heavy on Lebanon. The entire country feels this burden and their presence has aggravated socio-economic indicators,” the premier said.