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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid