Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Refugee Flow from Syria at Critical Point

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Refugee Flow from Syria at Critical Point

Article excerpt

At some point, the number of refugees heading to neighboring countries will become unmanageable, the head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said.

The head of a U.N. refugee agency said that refugees from Syria's war were on the verge of overwhelming the United Nations and the countries bordering Syria.

"This is the type of crisis that humanitarian agencies at some point cannot handle anymore," Filippo Grandi, commissioner general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which is responsible for Palestinian refugees, said Thursday during a two-day visit to Lebanon. "It's unmanageable and dangerous."

He predicted that by the end of the year, the flow of refugees would have swamped the resources of the United Nations as well as those of Lebanon and Jordan, two countries that border Syria.

Mr. Grandi, whose agency has its headquarters in Jerusalem, met with the Lebanese prime minister and president this past week to enlist their help in pressing international donors to pay for the swelling refugee crisis.

He said he had asked them to keep Lebanon's borders open to Palestinians fleeing the fighting in Syria. So far, Mr. Grandi said, 36,000 Palestinians already living as refugees in Syria have crossed the border into Lebanon, mostly cramming into already overcrowded, dilapidated refugee camps.

Lebanon has kept a wary eye on the flow of Palestinians. It was the mass movement of Palestinians to Lebanon in the 1970s that catalyzed the Lebanese civil war. And even before the Syrian crisis, now in its third year, 460,000 Palestinian refugees were registered in Lebanon, an overwhelming number in a country with a population of four million.

Lebanese officials have expressed concern that any Palestinian newcomers will become part of the permanent refugee population in the country. "Because of the extreme sensitivity of the presence of Palestinians here, it's putting pressure on a country whose political setup rests on a very delicate balance," Mr. …

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