The UNHCR representative in Lebanon Ninette Kelley informed last week that the number of Syrian refugees registered by UNHCR offices in Lebanon had drastically decreased in the last few weeks. According to Kelley, this phenomenon is the result of the restrictions imposed at the border by the Lebanese government.

On 21 October, Lebanese Minister for Social Affairs, Rashid Derbas, announced that Lebanon would not accept any more refugees from Syria. He said that the border would remain open to ‘emergency cases’ and Syrian nationals travelling for purposes other than seeking refuge. Derbas stated that “any Syrian national is welcome, but not as a refugee” and that “stopping the refugees is final, because Lebanon is no longer able to host any more.” He also maintains that there were many border areas on the Syrian side that were free of clashes and could host refugees.

As of 4 November 2014, UNHCR reports that there are 1,124,896 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon. However, the Lebanese government estimates that the number of Syrian refugees in the country is likely to be closer to 1.6 million. Furthermore, with winter approaching, the UN Refugee Agency warns that there is a lack of funding to ensure the basic needs of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon to face the cold temperatures.  

The UN refugee agency has repeatedly asked the international community to help Syria’s neighbouring countries – namely Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon – that currently host 96% of the Syrian refugee population. Increasing resettlement places, facilitating family reunification and temporary protection programmes have been identified by UNHCR as possible actions that States could undertake to assist Syria’s neighbouring countries in responding to the refugee crisis. In line with these appeals, UNHCR will host a ministerial pledging conference for resettlement and admission places for Syrian refugees in early December.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 7 November 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.