BEIRUT: More than one million Syrians have registered as refugees in Lebanon after fleeing war in their country, inflicting a “staggering” impact on the tiny Mediterranean country, the United Nations said on Thursday.
Refugees from Syria, half of them children, now equal a quarter of Lebanon’s resident population, the UN refugee agency said in a statement, warning that most of them live in poverty and depend on aid for survival.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) branded the one million figure as “a devastating milestone worsened by rapidly depleting resources and a host community stretched to breaking point.”
Tiny Lebanon has now become the country with “the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide,” and is “struggling to keep pace,” it said in a statement.
The massive refugee crisis is compounded by a spillover across the border of the violence that has ravaged Syria for the past three years, with Lebanon experiencing frequent bombings and clashes even as it grapples with political deadlock and an economic downturn.
UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres urged increased international action, warning that the impact of the refugee crisis on Lebanon is “staggering” and “immense.”
“Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history. We cannot let it shoulder this burden alone,” Guterres said in the statement.
“Lebanon has experienced serious economic shocks due to the conflict in Syria,” while security has deteriorated as a result of rising regional instability, he added.
Lebanon’s social affairs minister Rachid Derbas too appealed for greater inter–national support for his country as it struggles to cope with the refugee influx.