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Lebanon at Breaking Point Over Refugees

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 29 2014 (IPS) - “Lebanon is a beacon of tolerance and co-existence in the region” for sheltering Syrian refugees, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Secretary General’s spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, told reporters Lebanon has been extremely generous in the way it has opened its doors, taking in almost the equivalent of a quarter of its population in refugees.

The U.N. High Commission on Refugees estimates that by December 2014, Lebanon will have taken in 1.5 million refugees. This is a considerable burden for a country with a population of only 4.5 million, leading Lebanon’s government to announce last week that they could no longer continue to accept Syrian refugees.

John Ging, Operations Director for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters Wednesday that 3.2 million Syrians have now fled Syria, while a further 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced.

“We continue to see a lot of movement and lot of displacement from Syria. The whole region is now unstable and people are struggling to find where is safe,” he said.

Ging said that Lebanon also had a responsibility among its own people for stability. “They are driven by a sense of responsibility to allow their neighbours a safe sanctuary. They don’t want to shut their doors or their borders to anybody.” he said.

But Ging added that Lebanon needed more support from the international community.

He said that Lebanon and its neighbours had been asking for equal burden sharing of the financial consequences of the Syrian crisis from the international community.

“They’ve been ringing the alarm bells for the longest time. There hasn’t been the international community’s response on the scale that they require and now they find themselves in the dilemma that they are in.”

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