The Global Times
Op-Ed - http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/853547.shtml#.U0aNqI_PHVM
By Paul Cochrane
The Middle East is experiencing its worst refugee crisis since 1948 when
the state of Israel was created, which led to the expulsion and
dispossession of some 3.2 million Palestinians throughout the region.
the UN registered the millionth Syrian refugee in Lebanon. Every minute
another refugee is registered, yet the number of Syrians in Lebanon is
way higher than officially acknowledged, given the porous borders and
the tens of thousands of Syrians that were already working in the
country and could not go back.
The exodus of Syrians since the conflict broke out three years ago means roughly one in four people in Lebanon are now Syrian.
are everywhere, from mountain villages to makeshift tents in the Bekaa
Valley, to extended families sharing a single room in Beirut.
is bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis, but there are a further 1.5
million refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq's Kurdistan region, and 6
million internally displaced within Syria.
In addition to Syrian
refugees, there are 500,000 Palestinian refugees that have been in
Syria since 1948, and are being forced to become strangers in another
land once again.
The same is true for Iraqis that fled to Syria
following the US-led invasion in 2003, with the number of refugees
reaching 1.2 million by 2007, and as of 2013, had dropped to 480,000
refugees, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Iraqi refugees are stuck between a rock and a hard place, with Syria a
war zone and Iraq beset by terrorism and violence.
Lebanon, there are 280,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps.
Lebanon has become a home for the dispossessed, and it is taking its
toll, with an estimated $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses due
to the Syrian conflict and mounting socioeconomic instability.
is unwilling to allow refugee camps for the Syrians, unlike Jordan and
Turkey, as it does not want a repeat of the Palestinian camps that have
been here since 1948.
The Lebanese authorities are concerned that Syrians will settle in camps and not return home, even if the conflict ends.
stance is driven by fear, and it overlooks the fact that Palestinian
refugees cannot return home even if they wanted to, whereas at some
point, Syrians will be able to. It's when they can go home that's the
question, not whether.
More to the point, with Syrians dotted
throughout the country, it is proving a logistical nightmare to get aid
to refugees; aid that is needed to help alleviate the refugees' plight,
while also lessening the socioeconomic impact on Lebanese society.
camps should be strongly considered as part of the solution, as the
Lebanese government will have to adopt a more pragmatic approach to deal
with a crisis that is expected to only worsen.
Some 30 percent
of the UNHCR staff are now focused on Syria. But that is not enough,
especially when pledged donor funds are not honored, nor are all the aid
organizations and NGOs working to address the burgeoning humanitarian
The UNHCR is already making plans to handle potentially up to 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
need to know how to react if there is a further inflow of people if the
situation in Syria deteriorates further, and what to do if the
situation in Lebanon deteriorates," said Shaden Khallaf at the UNHCR in
The situation is deteriorating in both countries,
especially Syria, and the only real solution is an end to the conflict.
But multilateral talks in Geneva have not proved successful, and the
conflict has become a proxy war between global and regional players.
with major external actors tend to last longer as they provide the
materiel to keep the war going, while making it harder to get around the
Add in multiple internal actors, and an end
to hostilities seems far off. In Syria's case, there are estimated to be
as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups comprising some 100,000
While a third round of talks in Geneva are planned, the region is bracing itself for whatever comes next.
that means somehow dealing effectively with the multiple waves of
refugees, Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian, who seem a long way from