Lebanon’s PM says Syrian refugee influx could upset ‘demographic balance’

Thousands of Syrian refugees have crossed into Lebanon in recent months through porous border points.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati gestures during a news conference on the latest developments in the country, at the government palace in Beirut
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has disparaged the influx of Syrian refugees coming into the country, saying it could upset the nation’s demography.

At the start of a cabinet meeting, Mikati said on Thursday the fleeing Syrians “could create harsh imbalances”.

What was most worrying is that most of the refugees are young men and women, he said.

“That threatens our entity’s independence and could create harsh imbalances that could affect Lebanon’s demographic balance,” Mikati said.

Thousands of Syrian refugees have crossed into Lebanon in recent months through illegal crossing points, as the Mediterranean nation faces its own crippling economic crisis.

Issam Charafeddine, Lebanon’s caretaker minister of the displaced, told a local radio station that 20,000 refugees have crossed since the beginning of the year.

According to the United Nations, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world.

Just this week, the Lebanese army prevented 1,200 Syrians from crossing into Lebanon. Another 1,100 Syrians were prevented from entering last week.

“The Syrian-Lebanese border is porous and the number of soldiers mobilised is not enough,” an unnamed security official told AFP news agency. “Most Syrians come to Lebanon in the hope of finding work, given the unprecedented deterioration in living conditions in their country.”

Mikati said another cabinet session will be held next week with the commander of the army and heads of security agencies to discuss the issues of refugees.

Syrians continue to flee the conflict that has engulfed the country since 2011, which has since killed half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

In the early years of the conflict, Lebanon received hundreds of thousands of refugees, but after its economic crisis broke out in October 2019, that changed.

Renewed protests are taking place in Syria as anger grows over deteriorating living conditions, particularly in the southern province of Sweida. Protesters have also been demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies