Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil warned that the large number of Syrian refugees could lead to a “existential crisis” in Lebanon, which already faces numerous internal political problems.
“The massive influx of refugees will have a negative impact on the region as a whole, as it is rapidly changing countries demographics," Bassil said during a news conference after meeting his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto. "It will also negatively impact Europe and the west, as we will see western extremism rise up against Islamic extremism.”
Bassil added that Lebanon was prepared to cooperate with all countries in order to organize and put an end to the “chaotic situation,” emphasizing that Lebanon was not a transit country for refugees.
“Despite all the efforts our security forces have made (in securing the borders), we are now witnessing a new wave of migrants heading to the west from our coast,” Bassil continued.
He compared the refugee crisis in Lebanon to a tank overflowing with water. “It is only normal that water will spill out of the tank, and no matter how much we try to catch, the tank cannot hold more than its capacity.”
“For the short term we call on all donors to fulfill their commitments so as to ensure continued emergency response. For the long term we call for a political solution to be reached in Syria and Iraq, allowing all refugees to return to their countries,” Bassil said in his remarks.
Bassil also spoke about the plan put forward by Lebanon in order to help put an end to the chaos surrounding the crisis.
“International donors must directly help governments meet their financial needs while helping refugees so as not to place any additional burden on them,” adding, “Europe must help fight human trafficking networks, and surrounding Arab countries – especially the Gulf – must help return refugees to their homelands.”
The minister, recently selected by MP Michel Aoun to head the Free Patriotic Movement, reiterated his calls on the international community to help Lebanon cope with the refugee crisis, saying that the presence of 1.5 million Syrians and other migrants were posing a threat to Lebanon’s very existence, further complicating the already difficult political situation in the country.