Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Thursday called for an international conference to discuss establishing UN-protected camps inside Syria, as his country struggles with a wave of refugees from the conflict.
In a statement, Sleiman suggested that the camps be created “inside Syrian territory, far from conflict zones, be protected by United Nations forces, and located near the Lebanese, Jordanian, Turkish and Iraqi borders.”
He also suggested that Syrians taking refuge in Lebanon in the future could “be distributed to neighbouring and friendly countries.”
The comments come as Lebanon struggles under the weight of a wave of Syrian refugees from all walks of life who have flooded across the border as the conflict in their country continues into a third year.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has registered more than 400,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, though many more are believed to be in the country.
“There are more refugees. Lebanon cannot support (these numbers),” a source in the presidency told AFP.
Lebanese officials have frequently said that the country of just four million residents is ill-equipped to handle the number of refugees it is currently seeing.
More than a million Syrians have sought refuge outside their country since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, with another four million believed to be internally displaced.
Syria’s neighbours have borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, with Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq all affected.
Turkey, which is hosting more than 200,000 Syrian refugees and backs the Syrian uprising, has made frequent calls for the creation of a safe zone inside Syrian territory where displaced citizens could seek refuge.