Cabinet Votes to Adopt Refugee Plan amid Objection of Change and Reform Ministersإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The cabinet on Thursday voted to adopt a three-part plan to tackle the influx of refugees from war-torn Syria, amid the objection of the ministers of the Change and Reform bloc, who called for shutting the border with the neighboring country.
Radio Voice of Lebanon (100.5) said the three-part plan involves “registration -- which means the counting of refugees -- medical and food aid, and the security and social consequences.”
Several television networks revealed that the ministers of the Change and Reform bloc were “insisting on closing the border in the face of refugees, even if that required a vote in cabinet.”
For his part, Energy and Water Minister Jebran Bassil tweeted: “We've asked the state for a clear official stance that Lebanon cannot take in any additional refugee and we are insisting on this, even if it requires a vote.”
“The number of refugees must be reduced to a minimum by returning them to safe Syrian regions or deporting them to other countries,” Bassil added.
MTV said Interior Minister Marwan Charbel suggested setting up refugee camps, “but the proposal was rejected by Change and Reform ministers, with Bassil warning that camps will turn into military bases.”
The TV network also said “Syrian accusations against the social affairs ministry were raised during the cabinet session and (Foreign Minister Adnan) Mansour suggested to resolve the issue through contacts between the Lebanese and Syrian states without specifying the level of contacts.”
The relief plan adopted by cabinet requires more than 320 million dollars to provide the necessary humanitarian aid for the displaced and avert a security and social crisis.
Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour told local newspapers that the plan was discussed by several cabinet ministers during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Najib Miqati at the Grand Serail on Wednesday.
“Each minister made his own proposal and suggestion on how his ministry is working to resolve the problem of the refugees,” he said.
“It is up to the government today (Thursday) to take the appropriate decisions” during the session at Baabda Palace, he added.
Bassil told As Safir daily that Lebanon has reached the stage of “explosion” over the rising number of displaced Syrians and Palestinians.
“If we are going to be accused of racism by seeking to avert an explosion, then we should make that additional sacrifice to preserve the interest of the country,” he said.
The Free Patriotic Movement backs the control of the border and not its closure, Bassil stressed.
But minister Charbel told the same newspaper that he would propose a plan that deals with the security aspect of the influx.
“Things haven't gone out of control yet,” he said. But he warned that the rising influx could lead to the infiltration of gunmen to Lebanon through illegal crossings.
“We should keep our eyes open and take the appropriate measures,” Charbel added.
Minister of State for Administrative Reform Mohammed Fneish agreed, saying the issue of the refugees should be dealt with on humanitarian grounds without ignoring the security and social repercussions of the increasing number of refugees.
“The relief aid will be very costly and we will discuss in the cabinet the state's ability to afford it,” he told As Safir.
An Nahar daily, which received a copy of the plan's summary, said the number of officially registered refugees in Lebanon has reached 150,000 while around 50,000 are still not registered.
There are estimates that the number of displaced could reach at least 300,000 in the next six months.
The plan aims at providing state institutions involved in the relief aid with 320,276,000 dollars despite the inability of the government to meet that end, An Nahar said.
It warns that the government will have to deal with the case “differently” if immediate foreign assistance is not provided.