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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid