BEIRUT: In a statement published on Friday, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed concerns over the deteriorating situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon amid a number of protests outside its offices.
UNHCR is deeply worried about misinformation circulating among some of the protesters, who are led to believe that exposing themselves to the cold and rain or to detention will facilitate or fast-track their resettlement to a third country.
"This is not only misleading, but it also raises expectations that can only lead to more suffering and frustration," said the UNHCR official Mireille Girard. "We fully understand the fears and frustrations expressed by the persons protesting by our office, many of whom are refugees badly hit by the deteriorating economics."
"Since the start of the protests, our teams have been engaging with the refugees to work together on how best to address the situation," she added. “Obviously, refugees have the right to express their grievances peacefully, but we are advising them not to expose themselves outside the boundaries of the law."
The situation of each person and family varies and is assessed based on its own specificity. Many of the refugees involved in the protest receive UNHCR's assistance through cash, winter or shelter programmes, or benefit from its health and education programmes.
According to UNHCR, efforts are being deployed by other organizations that help migrants who do not qualify for refugee status and therefore who do not fall under UNHCR's mandate.
"Refugees and migrants are already in a very difficult situation and we are appealing to everyone to work together on constructive and feasible solutions. It is critical not to aggravate their situation." Girard said. "The current situation reflects the growing anxiety among refugees living in Lebanon. Many are deeply affected by the worsening economic crisis in the country, living below the poverty line, and having limited capacity to cope. Despite Lebanon's remarkable generosity, the challenges faced by refugees on a daily basis are immense."
According to the assistance agency, to help mitigate the impact of the economic crisis, UNHCR has rapidly mobilized and been able to expand its winter assistance program to provide a safety net at this critical period of the year. In total, over 900,000 refugees received support. Vulnerable Lebanese families also benefited from the programme. The agency is also actively reaching out to provide more individual counselling to refugees in distress through additional hotlines and face to face discussions.
"While we are working hard to further expand assistance, we remain severely constrained by funding limitations. This is forcing us and other humanitarian agencies to prioritize the most vulnerable refugees," added the UNHCR official, noting that the inter-agency humanitarian appeal, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, only received 50 per cent of the money it needs to carry out all its activities and programmes in Lebanon last year.
"Many refugees hope to be resettled to a third country as they do not see how to cope with the current situation. While we understand their hope for a solution, it is important to stress that the number of resettlement places remains extremely limited worldwide," said Girard.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.