Ban Says Dealing with Burden of Refugees More Difficult Amid Lack of New Cabinet

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the “complicated” situation in Lebanon was exacerbated by the pressure of Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting in their country.

“The situation in Lebanon is very much complicated,” Ban said in his year-end press conference in New York on Monday.

“On top of the lack of government formation, then this tragic humanitarian pressure and burden really makes (the situation for the) Lebanese government and people much, much more difficult,” he said.

Ban told reporters that he has been discussing this matter with President Michel Suleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati.

Peter Kessler, UNHCR senior regional spokesman, said Monday at least 120,000 Syrians seek shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq every month.

"The needs are enormous and the host countries cannot meet them on their own. They need help," Kessler told the Associated Press by phone from the Lebanese border town of Arsal, where the population has skyrocketed.

Lebanon has been particularly hard hit, because the government kept the borders open and no formal refugee camps have been established.

The refugees are scattered all over the country, and mostly live in informal tented settlements in the North and in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

More than 20 percent of Lebanon's inhabitants are now Syrians, who have fled the fighting, Kessler said.

Ban warned that the number of refugees may reach soon reach 1 million in Lebanon alone.

Suleiman and Miqati “are appealing to lessen” and alleviate this “extraordinary burden,” he said in response to a question.

“I am very much sympathetic about that. That is why I have established the International Support Group for Lebanon last September to discuss all political, security and humanitarian issues focused on Lebanon,” he said.

The U.N. chief promised to continue with that support.

The support group was inaugurated in New York on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly.

It undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government.

Source: Naharnet, Associated Press

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