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Lebanon’s Maronite League Calls for Return of Syrian Refugees | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian refugee at Minia Syrian refugee camp, on the outskirts of northern Lebanese city Tripoli. Reuters

Beirut-A seminar organized by Lebanon’s Maronite League is expected to adopt several recommendations that encourage the return of Syrian refugees to their country.

The officials who participated in the seminar, which concluded on Friday, are now working on issuing the recommendations early next week. They include the importance of “finding practical solutions to the refugee crisis and its repercussions, and coming up with decisions that can be implemented.”

Among the participants were United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag, representatives of U.N. agencies, international law experts and organizations that work on Syrian refugee affairs.

During the seminar, there were converging viewpoints on the right of the displaced Syrians to return home, particularly after the creation of safe zones in Syria.

The head of the Maronite League, Antoine Klimos, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the Lebanese “can no longer stand still as the refugee crisis unfolds.”

He said the Lebanese should “find solutions, or at least limit the damage caused by the crisis.”

Klimos, who is the former head of the Beirut Bar Association, said the Maronite League fully understands the humanitarian and social conditions of the refugees and deals with the issue in an ethical way.

“Yet Lebanon’s interest should precede any other interest,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The current circumstances allow the return of the majority of the refugees to their country,” said Klimos. “Those supporting the Syrian regime can return to areas falling under the control of the regime, while the people who back the opposition can go to rebel-held zones.”

Klimos stressed that the Maronite League will follow up the matter with U.N. agencies and will provide Lebanon’s delegation to the General Assembly in New York with the recommendations that are expected to be issued on Tuesday.

The seminar focused on the repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon’s economy and the labor force, in addition to its negative effects on social issues and the country’s security.

Participants also discussed the consequences of the crisis on Lebanon’s tourism sector.

In addition to shedding light on the damages caused by the refugee problem, they urged the Lebanese state to better organize the Syrian labor force and impose taxes and Syrian workers.