Lebanon seeks help to cope with Syrian influx

President Michel Sleiman appeals for aid, saying donors have not contributed enough to support 800,000 refugees.

    Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman has appealed for more assistance to deal with the high number of Syrian refugees living in the country, saying the international community's efforts to date have been insufficient.

    "The financial contribution is not enough, and the participation in sharing the number of refugees is not enough," Sleiman said, after meeting representatives from several countries and international organisations, including the Arab League and the European Union.

    He also called for a new donors conference to pledge money for Syrian refugees.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports on how the refugees are impacting Lebanon's economy

    Lebanon has taken in by far the largest number of Syrian refugees: Nearly 800,000 are officially registered with the United Nations, and many more remain uncounted. They make up nearly 25 percent of the population.

    A meeting at the UN last month pledged $339m for humanitarian aid for refugees, of which $74m was earmarked for Lebanon.

    The EU's envoy to Lebanon announced an additional $96m in funding after meeting Sleiman.

    "We are making every effort to help meet the urgent needs of Lebanese and refugees through emergency humanitarian aid and the development of infrastructure and basic services," said Angelina Eichhorst.

    With winter fast approaching, aid agencies are scrambling to prepare refugee communities for the cold and rain.

    Many are living in informal housing, including unfinished buildings, makeshift shelters and tents, and face the threat of flooding as well as bitterly cold temperatures.

    Eichhorst said the extra funding, which would cover a period from November to March, would go to help 90,000 families identified as "the most vulnerable."

    UN pushes Europe on asylum

    Also on Friday, the UN's refugee agency appealed to European and other states to grant asylum to more Syrians, hundreds of whom have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

    "Growing numbers of Syrians are crossing the Mediterranean from Egypt to Italy, citing increasing anxiety over their security as well as incidents of physical assaults, verbal threats, detention and deportation," said Melissa Fleming, the chief spokeswoman for the agency.

    Since August, more than 6,000 refugees from Syria have arrived in Italy aboard 63 boats, up from 350 in all of last year.

    Up to 300 people are still missing after a boat sank off the coast of Malta last week after departing from Libya.

    Egypt hosts up to 300,000 Syrians, according to government estimates, but there has been a backlash against them since President Mohamed Morsi's ouster in July.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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