The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has dropped to less than one million for the first time since 2014, said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday.
The UN documented 997,905 registered refugees, mostly women and children, in present in Lebanon at the end of November. In December 2016, this figure was 1,011,366.
"The number reached one million in April 2014, and this is the first time it drops below that," UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled told AFP.
Numbers were decreasing, she said, as refugees had resettled in third countries, returned to their homes in Syria, or passed away.
From 2011 until September this year, nearly 49,000 Syrians left Lebanon as part of the United Nations' resettlement program to third countries including the United States, Sweden, and France.
Others left on their own, making the dangerous sea journey to reach Europe.
"We cannot confirm how many returned to Syria. They don't necessarily tell us, but we know it's a few thousand in 2017," Abou Khaled said.
She said the United Nations revised its numbers on a quarterly basis to assess who remained in Lebanon and what support they required.
More than five million Syrians have fled the country's conflict since 2011 to neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, and even higher numbers are displaced internally.
The influx has tested Lebanon, a country of just four million that already struggled with overstretched resources. International organizations and ngos have argued however that the refugees have helped the economy because they are spending relief funds in the local markets.
More than half of registered Syrians in Lebanon live in extreme poverty, struggling to eke out a living while sheltering in informal tented settlements or unfinished buildings.
Lebanese politicians have increased their calls in recent months for refugees to return home, with large parts of the country under regime control but left in ruins.