News / Middle East

UN: Lebanon's Syrian Refugee Crisis Could Explode into Sectarian Violence

Syrian refugee family members break their fasting outside their tent at a refugee camp in the eastern town of Marj in Bekaa valley, Lebanon, June 29, 2014.
Syrian refugee family members break their fasting outside their tent at a refugee camp in the eastern town of Marj in Bekaa valley, Lebanon, June 29, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

A senior U.N. official warns the growing Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon could explode into inter-sectarian violence.  The official says competition between the Lebanese and Syrians for limited resources is increasing tensions between these communities to a dangerous level.  

Lebanon has the highest proportion of refugees of any country in the world.  The U.N. refugee agency has registered more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees and those numbers are going up by 12,000 a week.  It is estimated the refugee population will reach 1.5 million by the end of the year.  
 
U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon, Ross Mountain, said refugees now comprised one quarter of Lebanon's population, and this was rising to one-third.  
 
"It would be equivalent to a million people coming into New Zealand in 18 months...or 100 million Mexicans going into the United States or 2.5 million people coming into Switzerland in 18 months.  The proportions are just extraordinary.  I do not know any other country that could withstand this pressure," said Mountain.  
 
Competition

Lebanon has no refugee camps.  So, most of the Syrian refugees live in some 240 of Lebanon's poorest communities in the northern Akkar and Beka'a regions.  Mountain told VOA the reality of Lebanese and Syrians living side-by- side, vying for the same jobs and basic needs including food, scarce water and health was a formula for insecurity and rising conflict.
 
"We have already statistics of something like 37 percent of the prison population now is Syrian.  And, obviously if people cannot get jobs, they are not in school and so on-this is storing up even further trouble-not just for Lebanon, but for the neighborhood," he said.  
 
Ross Mountain is on a tour of several major cities in Europe to draw attention to the dilemma facing Lebanon.  He said the stability of the country did not hinge solely on money.  But, he noted it was not helpful that only 29 percent of the U.N.'s $1.6 billion humanitarian appeal for 2014 was funded.  He said this lack of international support was only adding fuel to an already explosive situation.
 
He said tensions at the moment were being kept under control.  But, Mountain noted Lebanon went through a wrenching civil war 25 years ago and many of the same elements present then were present now.  This, he said was raising the specter of rising inter-sectarian problems in Lebanon getting out of hand.

Mountain said so far hard work by political and religious leaders and by Sunni and Shi'ite communities has managed to keep a lid on growing tensions and resentment between the Lebanese people and Syrian refugees.  But, he warned this was a time bomb waiting to explode.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid