UNHCR concerned at growing anxiety and challenges of refugees in Lebanon

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed today its concerns over the deteriorating situation of refugees in Lebanon amid a number of protests outside its offices.

“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 economic situation in Lebanon,” said Mireille Girard, UNHCR’s Representative in Lebanon.

“Since the start of the protests, our teams have been engaging with the refugees in groups and individually to work together on how best to address the situation,” she continued. 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.

UNHCR is also deeply worried about misinformation circulating among some of the protestors involved in a sit-in 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 also raises expectations that can only lead to more suffering and frustration,” said the UNHCR official.

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 its cash, winter or shelter programmes or benefit from its health and education programmes.

Efforts are being deployed by other organizations helping migrants to assist those among protestors 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.” said Girard.

“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,” she added.

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 and vulnerable Lebanese families also benefitted from the programme. We are 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.

Less than one per cent of the close to 26 million refugees around the world are resettled to a third country each year. While the number of refugees resettled out of Lebanon has been sustained in recent years, thanks to much advocacy, and support by third countries, the needs far outweigh the number of places available.

UNHCR remains committed to providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in Lebanon, and will continue to work closely with refugees, humanitarian actors and all concerned at this difficult time for the country, concluded Girard.

Source: National News Agency

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