Sun, 10 Dec 2023

BEIRUT, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib on Tuesday called for resolving the Syrian refugee issue through dialogue, Lebanon's National News Agency reported.

"The refugees' issue must be resolved by a dialogue with European countries and not through the attempt of some influential European countries to impose their stay in Lebanon indefinitely," Bou Habib said during a discussion session held in Rome, Italy, organized by the Italian Society for International Organizations.

"There is no clear road map until now for resolving their tragedy. Syrian refugees have lived in Lebanon for 12 years, awaiting a solution," he said.

He added that the displaced Syrians are not political refugees but economic refugees, and Lebanon's internal situation can no longer tolerate their stay there.

The minister said that Lebanon is hosting the largest number of refugees per capita, with about 2 million Syrian refugees living in the country, and the figure threatens to disrupt the structure of Lebanese society.

"There has always been a balance between Christians and Muslims where they felt equal with no preference given to one over the other," he said.

Bou Habib also revealed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other officials had informed him that Syria has 40 laws to ensure that refugees, including opponents and dissidents, are not punished in any way.

"The Syrian side has informed us of its willingness to cooperate with international organizations to ensure that returnees to Syria are not subjected to any harassment or arbitrary prosecution," he said.

Bou Habib announced last month that the cost of Syrian refugees' stay in Lebanon is estimated at around 6 billion U.S. dollars per year compared to 3 billion U.S. dollars as assessed by the World Bank in 2013.

Last month, the Lebanese government asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide Lebanon's interior ministry with data on the displaced Syrians, aiming to tighten refugee measures by canceling the "refugee status" for those who had left the Lebanese territory.

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