PM, Tamam Salam lauds global awareness campaign on refugee crisis


 Salam lauds global awareness campaign on refugee crisis
Dana Halawi/The Daily Star/Nov. 26, 2014 |

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam hailed an awareness campaign Tuesday aimed at reaching out to the international community to help curb the negative repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis on the Lebanese community.

“I am very happy to participate even partially in launching one of our campaigns that highlight the importance of dealing with the situation of Syrian refugees in a very professional and clever way,” he told an audience of NGOs and media at the Grand Serail.

“I wish this action today all the best,” he said, voicing hope that with the help of the international community ministers would be more successful in tackling this issue while achieving results that would improve the situation for both Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities.

Dubbed “Tied Down,” the campaign was launched by the Economy Ministry and financed by the Lebanese Recovery Fund.

The Lebanese Recovery Fund has been playing a prominent role over the past seven years in addressing targeted projects aimed at promoting development in Lebanon’s underprivileged areas, which are currently the main hosting communities of the Syrian refugees. The Lebanon Recovery Fund benefits from Spanish, Swedish, German and Romanian support.

The global communication initiative was designed to inform the public that Lebanon has the highest per capita concentration of refugees recorded anywhere in the world in recent history. It also aims to show the extent of the impact the Syrian refugee crisis has had on the Lebanese hosting communities, especially given the lack of sufficient support by the international community.

“There is certainly insufficient support coming forth and there has been quite a bit of money poured in due to the great competition for limited funds,” Ross Mountain, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the launching ceremony.

Mountain warned that Lebanon was not only facing a humanitarian crisis with the huge influx of refugees.

“What Lebanon is facing today requires countries to understand the importance of maintaining stability in the country and therefore being able to tap into the development resources, which for most governments are much greater than the humanitarian resources,” he said.

Mountain said the United Nations was determined to help the Lebanese government in addressing the needs and challenges in the most vulnerable communities. “The U.N. has been working over the past six months to put together the Lebanon Crisis Response Program,” he said.

“The program, which will be launched in 2015, brings together some 78 entities from governments, NGOs, national and international U.N. agencies, seeking to combine a humanitarian response that indeed deals with the Syrian displaced and poor Lebanese but also with host communities, municipalities and government services,” he added.

Mountain said Lebanon needs the help of the international community to deal with this crisis and to help ensure continued protection of the Syrians in the country in addition to their safe return home.

For his part, Economy Minister Alain Hakim told The Daily Star the only way to improve the economic situation in the country was through the return of refugees to their country. “Refugees should go back to their country. We insist on their return and this will not take place unless there is cooperation with the current Syrian government,” he said.

Hakim said in his speech that the huge influx of Syrian refugees was having a huge negative impact on the resources in the country, a situation that has become untenable. “The strain on our resources has made life unbearable,” he added.

Hakim said the international community had a responsibility to share more of the growing burden.

“We must act now at this very critical moment when humanitarian and development efforts for the Syrians as well as for the hosting communities are both essential and complementary,” he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil said that proper management of refugee issues by the government and the international community was a priority.

“The government should secure help and support for the Syrian refugees who are most in need of it,” he said, adding that Lebanon’s resources and the contributions from the international community were very limited and therefore the focus should be on helping the neediest people