News / Middle East

UN Asks West to Admit More Syrian Refugees

FILE - Syrians waiting for their appointments at the U.N. refugee agency's registration center in Zahleh, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. In Lebanon, Dec. 18, 2013
FILE - Syrians waiting for their appointments at the U.N. refugee agency's registration center in Zahleh, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. In Lebanon, Dec. 18, 2013
— On average every week, 11,000 new Syrian refugees arrive in Lebanon.  As the flow of those fleeing Syria’s civil war shows no sign of abating, the top U.N. refugee official in Lebanon says Western countries must relieve the pressure and admit more Syrians.

Ninette Kelley had just one year as the representative of the U.N. refugee agency in Lebanon before the civil war erupted in neighboring Syria, triggering huge waves of refugees needing shelter, food and medical assistance. Nearly three years into the crisis, she admits one of the biggest fears is that spillover sectarian violence will engulf Lebanon, too.

“In regard to the spread of insecurity in Lebanon given that many of the divisions that are being played out in Syria also erupt from time to time and sentiments are very strong for and against Syrian factions, I think that is the great fear of Lebanon and I think it is a great testament to the country that it hasn’t exploded more than it already has,” said Kelley.

If new arrivals continue at the current rate, a million Syrians will have registered as refugees in Lebanon by the beginning of March. That represents a 25 percent jump in the country’s total population, straining Lebanon’s economy, its education and health systems and roiling its fragile sectarian politics.

Kelley says Western countries must help. 

“We are encouraging other countries in the world to come forward on a number of different programs. One is to relax their visa restrictions vis-à-vis Syrians. Two is to facilitate family reunification for Syrian refugees to join family members that may be in other countries. And three is to expand resettlement programs and humanitarian admission programs," she said.

Of all the challenges facing refugees in Lebanon, Kelley says the biggest is shelter.

“Shelter is a huge challenge. We have 65 percent of refugees renting something kind of accommodation and many of them are doubling and tripling up in a single-bedroom apartment. And then we have over 30 percent of refugees who are living in very insecure situations - tents, unfinished buildings, garages, warehouses," said Kelley.

Forty-five-year-old Saha, who fled the Syrian city of Homs five months ago, is one of those in insecure accommodation. She, her daughter and son, and his son’s wife and baby live in a tiny makeshift one-room house in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli. She does not know where she will find next month’s rent money - $200 - or another $100 owed on last month’s rent.

“The owner is a gentleman that reminds us of the money but doesn’t push us too much. The owner has said he wants the money by next month. He says you are Syrian refugees and I really hope you find a way to pay me the money,” said Saha.

Saha is not alone - most refugees cite housing as their number one problem. The U.N.’s Kelley has been pressing the Lebanese authorities for months to agree to the building of managed refugee camps, but says it has been hard to secure agreement.

“All policy decisions have to be reached by consensus and that is very difficult to obtain around the Cabinet table.”

Negotiations are painstaking and protracted, but Kelley said she is not giving up.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
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 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.

AppleAndroid