Lebanon to open Syria refugee camps

2014-09-12 05:00
Thousands of Syrians streaming into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (File, AFP)

Thousands of Syrians streaming into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beirut - Lebanon has decided to set up two camps for Syrian refugees for the first time along its border with war-torn Syria, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas told AFP on Thursday.

The move comes despite long-standing reservations among many in Lebanon over establishing such camps, for fear they will encourage Syrians to stay in the country or threaten its security.

There are already more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which has a population of just four million people.

Many are already living in informal tented settlements on farmland or empty fields in parts of the country.

Derbas said the decision to establish the two camps had already been approved and that government representatives were meeting on Thursday to discuss implementing the plan.

"The Council of the Ministers has taken a decision to set up camps for Syrian refugees, one in the Bekaa valley in the Masnaa area and one in the Abda area in northern Lebanon," Derbas said.

"Estimates are that each camp could accommodate 10 000 people," he added.

The refugee influx has put massive pressure on the country's limited resources and contributed to rising tensions in a nation with a delicate sectarian balance and bitter memories from a 15-year civil war.

The issue of refugee camps in Lebanon is particularly fraught because of its experience with the Palestinians who flooded into the country after the creation of the state of Israel.

Those refugees and their children have remained in camps in the country, and armed Palestinian groups played a significant and deadly role in the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war.


The dispersal of Syrian refugees throughout the country has created its own pressures, and Derbas has several times advocated establishing camps.

He said Thursday's meeting of government representatives would set up a study on "implementation of the project of establishing camps" as well as a funding mechanism for the proposed sites.

The camps would have prefabricated homes for the refugees that "can be dismantled and taken with them when they move to Syria", he added.

In a statement, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it was ready to co-operate with the project.

"In regard to the present proposal, we stand ready to work with the Minister of Social Affairs on reviewing possible sites and assessing their feasibility as requested," it said.

But it warned that the "overriding imperative" in selecting a site should be security.

"This includes making sure sites are in areas that are not prone to floods or erosion so as to support structures needed to accommodate refugees," the statement said.

"It also means that the locations must not be vulnerable to being compromised by armed elements which can threaten refugees and their hosts."

The conflict in Syria has regularly spilled over into Lebanon, with the border region often particularly volatile.

The fighting has also stoked existing political and sectarian tensions in Lebanon, where many Sunnis back the uprising against President Bashar Assad and many Shiites support his regime.

Read more on:    lebanon  |  syria

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.