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Lebanon Attends U.N. Refugee Summit amid Naturalization Fears | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam Reuters/Jamal Saidi

Beirut-An official Lebanese delegation headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam traveled to New York on Saturday to participate in a summit on refugees which is set to be held at the United Nations headquarters next week.

The summit is expected to discuss the problem of Syrian refugees -the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II – in addition to ways to end the five-year bloody conflict.

Lebanon’s delegation is seeking to inform the international community and the countries participating in the summit about the problems that the Beirut authorities are facing as a result of the burden of refugees.

Lebanon hosts around one million Syrian refugees. Their presence in the country has had severe economic, social and educational repercussions on the country.

The Lebanese delegation will inform the participating states about its fears of a possible naturalization of refugees.

A source close to the prime minister told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that in his speech, Salam will urge the U.N. to meet its previous commitments regarding Syrians who have taken refuge in Lebanon.

“Salam will also reiterate Lebanon’s official stance on its absolute rejection of naturalization,” said the source.

“Lebanon is neither able to carry this burden, nor it accepts for Syrians to remain out of their country,” the source added.

Fears rose in Lebanon when the U.N. asked countries hosting Syrians to naturalize them and when last week U.S. President Barak Obama said he will host the summit for the purpose of boosting humanitarian funds and doubling the number of refugees being resettled annually.

Although the summit will try to resolve the problems facing countries that host refugees, the dire conditions of the displaced Syrians do not seem to be a priority.

Lawyer Nabil al-Halabi, who is involved in refugee affairs, said: “The primary purpose of taking refuge (in a country) is to seek security and legal protection unlike what is happening in Lebanon where the displaced are facing harassment and being treated as economic refugees who have crossed the border illegally.”

Halabi told Asharq al-Awsat that security forces have repeatedly carried out raids on refugee encampments and arrested dozens of men who are the only providers for their families.

The detained are being imprisoned without trial and treated as illegal migrants and not refugees who have left their homes against their will, he said.