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Hariri Rings Alarm Bells on Syrian Refugee Crisis | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri talks during a conference in Beirut, Lebanon January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Beirut- Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said Lebanon was close to “breaking point” due to the strains of hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and he feared unrest could spiral from tensions between them and Lebanese communities.

“Today if you go around most of the host communities, there is a huge tension between the Lebanese and the Syrians… I fear civil unrest,” Hariri told journalists working for foreign media on Friday.

“Municipal chiefs have asked me to come up with ways to deport them (the displaced) to Syria. The government will never take such action because we know that the refugees will confront many dangers,” he said.

Refugees who fled the six-year-long conflict in neighboring Syria make up a quarter of Lebanon’s population. They live in informal settlements mainly in northern and eastern Lebanon and receive assistance from the United Nations. But Hariri stresses that such aid is not enough.

The prime minister will head a delegation from Lebanon to the Brussels Conference on Wednesday, which aims at supporting Syrian refugees.

“I am going … to make sure that the world understands that Lebanon is on the verge of a breaking point,” he said.

He told the journalists that, at the conference, he will propose a five to seven-year policy paper under which the international community would commit to paying 10,000 to 12,000 dollars for each refugee by investing in Lebanon’s infrastructure.

“I think that will make sure that Lebanon is going to stand on its own and the economy will thrive,” he said.

The number of students at schools has risen from 200,000 to 450,000 in the past six years, Hariri said.

“The international community should do something,” he stressed.

According to UNHCR, there are over 1 million registered refugees in Lebanon, but some believe there are 1.5 million.

Another refugee-related problem is electricity.

Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said in a press conference held on Friday that displaced Syrians are consuming 490 Megawatts of electricity.

This means they are depriving the Lebanese of five hours of power daily and burdening the state treasury with 330 million dollars.