Parliament to issue recommendation on refugee crisis, EU aid


Parliament will convene Wednesday to discuss a deal with the EU including a financial package of $1 billion in aid for Lebanon as the EU urged the crisis-hit country to tackle illegal migration to the bloc.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has asked his political aide, Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil, to discuss with all the parliamentary blocs their proposals regarding a recommendation to the government on the European aid deal that Parliament will issue during Wednesday's session, al-Jadeed said.

Khalil's tour is in coordination with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the local TV channel added.

MPs will discuss during the session whether Lebanon should accept the aid package, al-Joumhouria newspaper said.

"Refusing the donation is an option to be discussed Wednesday in Parliament," sources told al-Joumhouria.

Many in Lebanon criticized the deal, including the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces.

LF leader Samir Geagea said he does not oppose the donation per se but needs clarifications from the government on whether the deal requires keeping the Syrian refugees in Lebanon in exchange.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday sounded the alarm over the presence of displaced and "illegal" Syrians in Lebanon, adding that he regrets that the European and world countries are not cooperating with Lebanon to resolve the refugee crisis and are instead using the refugees for political motives.

"They are putting this heavy burden on Lebanon with its very dangerous repercussions, not realizing that they are raising criminals and terrorists that will target these very countries before any other place," he warned.

Last week, Speaker Berri urged the Lebanese leaders to deal with the refugee crisis responsibly away from populism and competitiveness.

The war in Syria that erupted in 2011 after the government repressed pro-democracy protests has killed more than half a million people and displaced around half of the pre-war population.

Lebanon, which has been in the throes of a severe financial crisis since 2019, hosts nearly 780,000 registered Syrian refugees and hundreds of thousands more who are unregistered, the world's highest refugee population per capita.

Lebanese political officials have been calling for years for the international community to either resettle the refugees in other countries or assist in returning them to Syria — voluntarily or not.

Tensions around the presence of refugees have further flared since an official with the Lebanese Forces party, Pascal Suleiman, was killed last month in what military officials said was a botched carjacking by a Syrian gang. The incident prompted outbreaks of anti-Syrian violence by vigilante groups.

Some Lebanese politicians have blamed Syrians for their country's worsening troubles, and pressure often mounts ahead of an annual conference on Syria held in Brussels, with a ministerial meeting set for May 27.

In a televised interview Thursday, Geagea called on the Lebanese diaspora to participate in a protest during the ministerial meeting in Brussels to demand that aid be given to Syrians inside their country and not in Lebanon.

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