Qabalan: We Condemn the Call for Naturalizing Syrian Refugees
Higher Islamic Shiite Council chief Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan on Thursday condemned calls for “naturalizing” Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“We condemn every call and effort to naturalize the Palestinians and we also deplore the call for naturalizing Syrian refugees,” said Qabalan in a statement marking the first of Muharram, in an apparent reference to recent remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Arab and Muslim leaders must exert efforts to secure their return to their homeland in Syria, which has started to regain its peace and stability after the great achievements that have been made by the Syrian army and its allies, who have ousted takfiri gangs from Syria and Lebanon,” the top Shiite cleric added.
He also called on Arab and Muslim leaders to “support Palestine and its people, halt the bloodshed in Yemen and do justice to Bahrain's people.”
Trump's suggestion that refugees be resettled closer to home instead of brought to the United States has angered many in Lebanon, a tiny country hosting more than 1.5 million refugees.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri said "everyone knows Lebanon rejects resettling Palestinians or any other nationalities."
The country of just 4 million is officially hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees and some 500,000 Palestinians. The real numbers are likely higher as many don't register with the U.N.
Lawmakers on Wednesday demanded a formal response to Trump.
Speaker Nabih Berri said it was no "joking matter," and invoked Lebanon's Constitution, which he said rejects resettlement.
Trump told the U.N. Tuesday that for the cost of resettling one refugee in the U.S., Washington could assist 10 closer to home.