Bassil to Int'l Community: Stop Encouraging Syrians to Stay in Lebanonإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Thursday called on the international community to “stop encouraging Syrians to stay in Lebanon.”
“We cannot remain silent over what happened at the Brussels conference,” Bassil said after a cabinet session in Baabda.
“The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) issued a statement scaring Syrians off from returning home and this behavior is suspicious,” the minister added.
“The international community must stop encouraging Syrians to stay in Lebanon rather than return to Syria,” Bassil went on to say, stressing that “they cannot lecture us about being humanitarian.”
He added: “We want to preserve the Lebanese identity and we are free about our national identity.”
Bassil also noted that he had never accepted the “voluntary return” phrase in international statements.
“What's new today is the call for a voluntary and temporary return while giving them the choice to stay in Lebanon,” the minister warned.
Almost one million Syrians are registered as refugees in Lebanon, though many expect the real number is much higher.
Several politicians have blamed a flurry of social and economic woes in Lebanon on Syrian refugees, and calls for them to return have increased in the run-up to the country's first parliamentary elections in nearly a decade on May 6.
Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.