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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs