Aoun's visit to Moscow a fresh opportunity to tackle Lebanon refugee crisis

by Ziad El Sayegh

26 March 2019 | 16:57

Source: by Annahar

  • by Ziad El Sayegh
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 26 March 2019 | 16:57

Syrian refugees at the border (Associated Press)

BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun's visit to Moscow provides an opportunity for Lebanon to come forward with a multi-dimensional strategy to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis. One that takes into consideration the humanitarian and diplomatic dimensions of the crisis and Lebanon's sovereignty and national interests.

In this context, the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland isn't merely a way for Lebanon to safeguard its sovereignty and national interest but also a recognition of one of their basic rights in line with Arab and international conventions. It also puts an end to one of the worst catastrophes of the 21st century.

Simply put, from a humanitarian perspective, Syrian have the right to seek refuge in neighboring countries but are equally entitled to return to their homeland.

To this day, Lebanon still lacks the necessary framework to advance this purpose.

Given the landscape of Lebanon's confessional divide, and the pressures it imposes, the crisis is being used to score political points based on a sectarian discourse that recalls the Palestinian refugee crisis, which is both misleading and irresponsible. 

The use of this sectarian rhetoric by some political actors is detrimental given the complexity of the issue while focusing only on the humanitarian dimension of the crisis is simply shortsighted.

The crisis in and of itself has a political and security layer from Syria's perspective while Lebanon deals with social and economic repercussions. 

Nine years in, Lebanese officials should let go of the populist rhetoric they are spewing while claiming to have bested their Arab neighbors and the west in dealing with the catastrophe. 

The humanitarian dilemma

Lebanon along with the international community has embraced Syrian refugees, sensing their pain and suffering. With the help of the United Nations, Lebanon continues to extend its helping hand, yet the pressures it faces are becoming more and more evident. 

As the small Mediterranean country reels under this burden amid the lack of a coherent policy, refugees are increasingly becoming the victims of this impasse while the state's resources are being depleted. 

Ever since the outbreak of the crisis in 2011, Lebanon has failed to implement a national framework to manage the inflow and outflow of refugees. 

If it wishes to continue with its moral obligation of acting as a host country, the implementation of a framework becomes of the utmost importance. 

The sovereign dilemma 

There is enough blame to go around for how the crisis has unfolded, and certain Lebanese players are not exempt. 

Specifically, those who have not respected Lebanon's border while violating our policy of dissociation.

Simply put, adding to the bloodshed in Syria is counterproductive to the effort of repatriation and the return of refugees. 

The diplomatic dilemma 

Despite the abundance of conventions, summits, assemblies, and meetings, Lebanon has failed to effectively get its message across to the international community. 

Its diplomatic stance has been mired with inner differences and political bickering, casting a shadow on its ability to meet the international community's assurances. 

Lebanon's diplomatic approach should be re-evaluated to avoid finding itself on the wrong side of the international community and dealing with this catastrophe on its own. 

The rhetoric currently being employed which revolves around Lebanon's inability to deal with this issue would only intensify the crisis. 

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