Lebanon PM meets UN humanitarian chief over refugee crisis

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The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam discussed with a visiting U.N. official Wednesday an upcoming donor conference designed to ease the burden on countries hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees.
Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who was accompanied by Ross Mountain, the U.N. resident Coordinator in Lebanon, told reporters after the meeting that talks focused on the third Syria donors’ conference which will be held in Kuwait at the end of March.

Amos noted that the conference will collect funds and aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and neighboring countries to help support their economic stability.

At least 1.13 million Syrian refugees have registered with the U.N. in Lebanon, but officials believe the actual number is much higher.

According to a statement released by Salam’s media office, the Amos hailed the Lebanese government for allowing the large number of Syrian refugees into the country, while acknowledging the economic and social impact their heavy presence has had on the country.

The meeting also delved into the situation in the region, especially the instability resulting from the expansion of ISIS.

Later in the day, Amosm who arrived to Lebanon Tuesday evening, met with Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas. They also discussed the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Following the meeting, Derbas expressed his gratitude towards Amos’s acknowledgment of the heavy toll the mass influx of refugees has had on Lebanon, saying that talks focused on the economic and social challenges faced by the country.

When asked by reporters’ whether he had asked for additional aid for Assyrians coming into Lebanon, the social affairs minister said that their low numbers do not necessitate special aid.

Derbas said that Lebanon was handling the Assyrian plight according to humanitarian standards and has consequently opened its borders to the refugees in an attempt to preserve the region’s diverse social fabric.

Last week the Interior Ministry announced it would instruct General Security to facilitate the entry of Assyrians fleeing an ISIS onslaught in Hassakeh, after an activist group reported that at least 220 Assyrian Christians were abducted from their homes along the Khabur River by the militant group.

The National News Agency reported Tuesday that 17 Assyrian Christians crossed at Lebanon’s Masnaa, but whether those permitted entry were asylum seekers from Hassakeh province, northeast Syria, or coming to Lebanon for short-stay purposes was unclear.
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