01/04/2018, 11.43
LEBANON - SYRIA
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Lebanese Minister: two years on decrease in Syrian refugees, today less than one million

Minister for Affairs of the Displaced, Moein Merhebi, reports that the number has dropped to about 980 thousand units. At the same time, funding from international nations and NGOs has also decreased. The distribution of aid remains essential. Meanwhile, Damascus is preparing for the return of refugees.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has declined considerably in the last two years and, for the first time in a while, has fallen below one million. This was affirmed by the Minister for Affairs of the Displaced, Moein Merhebi, who adds that regular and constant data recording will also facilitate their return home in the near future. The improvement of the situation is confirmed by his Syrian colleague for reconciliation Ali Haidar, who stressed that Damascus is preparing for the "return of refugees from Lebanon".

Interviewed by the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, Lebanese minister Moein Merhebi stressed that the latest census of Syrian refugees shows that the number "has fallen from 1.21 million to around 980 thousand." At the same time, he also adds that assistance provided to refugees has also diminished due to the collapse of funding by donor countries, NGOs and benefactors.

The minister recalls that the work of assistance to the exiles fleeing the war in neighboring Syria, a crisis that threatened to collapse even the economic and social system of the Land of Cedars, must be the prerogative of "the United Nations and other active organizations on the field". They must be entrusted with the task of managing the "distribution of aid". He also adds that the immense work of registration of refugees welcomed in the country will facilitate their return home. A huge job, he explains, is "in all the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese". In the past, AsiaNews had denounced the tragedy of those who fled the war in Syria, who were not recognized and therefore could not even register their deceased  or their newborn children.

The refugee emergency (almost two million at the height of the crisis, compared to a population of 4.4) had threatened to collapse the social and economic system of Lebanon, unsustainably burdening the infrastructure. Analysts and experts also talked about the risk of an increase in radicalization among those who were housed in shelters in conditions of absolute precariousness. World Bank sources say that the Syrian crisis would have pushed at least 200 thousand Lebanese beyond the poverty line, adding to the already existing million.

Meanwhile, statements of optimism also come from the Syrian government, which through the Minister for Reconciliation Ali Haidar confirms that preparations are continuing for the return of refugees from Lebanon. "A large number of citizens - he emphasized during the meeting with the Lebanese ambassador in Syria, Saad Zakhia - will soon return to their homes in Deir el-Zor and in the south-eastern outskirts of Aleppo, as well as in Damascus".

The Minister underscored the importance of collaboration between the two countries, to face the challenges and pursue the common objectives. In recent weeks the Syrian government has repeatedly issued appeals to those who have fled, inviting them to return to their homes in the provinces of Aleppo and Hama, which can now be considered largely stabilized.

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