Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), announced on Thursday that the agency is working with Syrian authorities to remove obstacles preventing the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.
During a meeting at the Grand Serail with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Grandi said the UN increased its humanitarian support for the Lebanese people and everyone in the country, pledging to offer more aid.
Last month, Lebanon resumed the “voluntary return” of Syrian refugees, as Beirut plans to organize a mass refugee return to the war-torn country.
Scores of Syrian refugees headed home from eastern Lebanon.
Grandi said he agreed with Mikati that the pressure imposed on Lebanon for hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees was enormous.
He said the UNHCR is working with Syrian authorities to remove obstacles preventing the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, noting that some of the challenges included destroyed houses and a difficult economic situation.
“We have made some progress, but there is still more work to be done for people to be confident in deciding to return,” he noted.
For his part, Mikati renewed Lebanon’s request for the UN to help Lebanese authorities secure a safe return for Syrian refugees to their homeland.
Mikati told Grandi that the issue remains a pressure factor on Lebanon at a time when the country no longer has the financial and political capacity to bear its repercussions, the PM’s office said in a statement.
Mikati also stressed that “the priority at this stage is to return the displaced Syrians gradually to their country as the situation has stabilized in Syria.”
Grandi also tackled the file with Speaker Nabih Berri, who stressed that “the burden endured by Lebanon as a result of the displacement' crisis has become very huge,” warning of serious consequences for Lebanon and the refugees.
Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. The government estimates that the country's population of over 6 million includes roughly 1.5 million refugees from neighboring Syria, though well under 1 million are registered with the UNHCR.