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MEREHBI CALLS FOR SAFE RETURN OF DISPLACED PERSONS TO THEIR HOMELAND

Minister of State for Displacement Affairs, Mouin Merehbi, received the Belgian Migration Minister, Theo Francken, accompanied by Belgium's Ambassador to Lebanon, Alex Lenaerts, with talks touching on the situation of displaced Syrians in Lebanon.

Merehbi reiterated his confirmation that "the crisis of displaced Syrians puts great pressure on Lebanon, while the international community is still stingy in its support," stressing "the existence of a Lebanese consensus on the need for the return of displaced Syrians."

"We are thankful for what the international community, in general, and Belgium, in particular, are offering, but there is no real sharing of refugees' burden among countries. We need more support to provide safe return for all displaced people to their homelands," he said.

He accordingly urged the international community "to work to find a solution to the Syrian crisis and to establish safe areas and rebuild Syria instead of continuing to undertake relief and humanitarian work."

The minister also warned that "if displaced people continue to live in miserable conditions, this may lead them to delinquency, extremism and falling into the hands of Terrorist organizations."

Francken, in turn, said that "Lebanon is an important country for Belgium and this visit is aimed at uttering solidarity with the Lebanese people who have welcomed the refugees, and an attempt to alleviate the pressure exerted on Lebanon, whether through the resettlement program, in cooperation with the UNHC, the humanitarian visa which is granted directly through the Belgian embassy in Lebanon, or through the financial support provided to the Lebanese government."

On the other hand, Minister Merehbi tackled with the director of the French Development Agency in Lebanon and Syria, Olivier Ray, the latest developments and the conditions of host communities in the remote and poorer areas that welcome the largest number of displaced people.

Merehbi pointed out that "the focus of the international community should generally be on investment in infrastructure in these remote areas, (...) in addition to creating job opportunities."

Ray, for his part, clarified that "the agency, under the authority of the French government, is interested in supporting Lebanon and determining the priorities chosen by the government to achieve development and provide the basic needs for the Lebanese citizens and the displaced Syrians."

He noted that the agency will, in the next stage, activate its cooperation with Lebanese NGOs so as to give priority to the basic domestic needs of host communities.

Source: National News Agency