News / Middle East

    UN Refugee Chief Visits Lebanon

    EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva gestures during a visit with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres (R) to Saadnayel in the Bekaa valley December 15, 2012.
    EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva gestures during a visit with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres (R) to Saadnayel in the Bekaa valley December 15, 2012.
    Paige Kollock
    U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says the situation for Syrian refugees will likely get worse as the conflict in that country continues.  He and European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva are visiting Lebanon to meet with Syrian refugees and Lebanese host families. 
     
    More than half-a-million Syrian refugees are living in neighboring states like Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Lebanon hosts the greatest number -  more than 157,000 -  according to United Nations estimates.
     
    As the conflict drags on, U.N. officials project refugee figures to rise to more than one million by June 2013, said Antonio Guterres is the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
     
    “We need to be prepared for an increased number of refugees in the months to come. And I think the international community needs to recognize that this is not a conflict like many others, this became indeed a brutal conflict in the context of a dramatic humanitarian tragedy," he said.
     
    Syrian refugees receive aid at a distribution center in Bar Elias village in Bekaa Valley.
    Syrian refugees receive aid at a distribution center in Bar Elias village in Bekaa Valley.
    Guterres and European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva are in Lebanon visiting with refugees, and appealing for international aid, especially as temperatures drop below freezing, and refugees suffer from a lack of proper clothing, shelter and medical supplies.  Aid officials also recognize that Lebanese host families are becoming overburdened and thanked them for their support.
     
    Syrian refugees are scattered throughout the country, often living in crowded rental housing, collective shelters, or with host families. There are no refugee camps inside Lebanon.
     
    The European Union has played a major role in helping Syrian refugees, pledging more than $500 million in humanitarian assistance.
     
    Georgieva says as fighting in Syria intensifies, aid workers on the ground in Syria are increasingly shut out.  She says even those who wish to stay cannot.
     
    “While all the refugees we talked to would prefer to stay in their home country, they are reporting atrocities and fighting of a magnitude that pushes them out,” she said.
     
    That makes aid efforts in neighboring countries like Lebanon that much more important.

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