German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday his country was ready to host an international conference to raise funds for Lebanon, which is hosting more than a million Syrian refugees.
Steinmeier was in Beirut for talks with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on how Beirut is coping with a flux of refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria.
“We realise that the war underway in Syria has posed huge challenges for Lebanon and that waves of refugees cross the border into Lebanon each day, hoping to find security but also food for their children, education and schools,” said Steinmeier.
He said he discussed these issues with Bassil as well as ways Germany can help Lebanon cope with the pressure.
“We discussed what can be done to help… and said that there is a possibility to convene an international conference aimed at setting up development funds to support agencies” that work with refugees in Lebanon, he said through an interpreter.
“Germany is the best place to organise this conference,” he added, without saying when it could be held.
Bassil said Lebanon has taken several measures to deal to deal with the refugee influx because Beirut “is under tremendous pressure” with half the people living in the country being non-Lebanese.
Of these, one third are Syrian refugees and one third are Palestinian. Our density has reached 550 persons per square kilometre the highest figure in the Middle East,” he said.
Bassil said the measures taken by Beirut aimed at “putting an end to the Syrian migration wave to Lebanon.”
This would mean finding way to encourage Syrians to return to their country or to set up “residential compounds inside Syria or on the Syrian borders to those displaced who are not in a position to return.”
The goal for Lebanon, he said, is “making sure that the Syrian displaced as well as the Palestinian refugees in Syria who fled the conflict and came to Lebanon return to Syria.”
Human Rights Watch earlier this month criticised Lebanon for refusing entry to Palestinians from Syria and forcibly returning them.
In addition to hosting Syrian refugees, Lebanon is also home to around 500,000 Palestinian refugees, whose presence in the country remains a source of tension.