INTERVIEW-Lebanon needs $12 bln to cope with refugee "earthquake"

by Reuters
Wednesday, 3 February 2016 16:13 GMT

Syrian women stand near a Free Syrian Army flag drawn on a tent at a makeshift settlement for Syrian refugees in Bar Elias, in the Bekaa valley, March 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

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Lebanon will ask international donors on Thursday for help to cope with Syrian refugee crisis

By Marc Jones and Karin Strohecker

LONDON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Lebanon will ask international donors at a summit on Thursday for $12 billion over the next five years to cope with what one minister called the "ongoing earthquake" of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Representatives of Middle East countries hosting millions of Syrians displaced by nearly five years of conflict are meeting world leaders in London to try to ease immense financial pressures the refugee flood is causing.

"The first thing you have to do is stop the bleeding," Lebanon's Education Minister Elias Bou Saab told Reuters at a pre-summit conference at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

"It is an ongoing earthquake that we are living every day, and every day it is growing."

Lebanon, a country of 4 million people, hosts more than 1 million registered Syrian refugees according to United Nations figures. The government says the real number of Syrians in Lebanon is much higher, and is warning the cost of housing and supporting such a large influx is unsustainable.

It will ask for a total of $12 billion split between traditional-style aid and loans on Thursday and hopes that Britain, which is hosting the talks, will back its calls.

"We are asking for about $4.9-5.0 billion over the next five years in grants," Bou Saab said.

"At the same time we will be asking for concessional financing, maybe close to $7 billion for projects infrastructure and others that we will get from the World Bank, or any other bank or European (development) bank."

Ahead of the Thursday summit in London, the United Nations is straining to keep Syrian peace talks alive.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura announced the formal start on Monday of the first attempt in two years to negotiate an end to a war that has killed 250,000 people, caused a refugee crisis in the region and Europe and empowered Islamic State militants.

But with fighting on the ground raging without constraint, De Mistura has acknowledged that talks could collapse. (Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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INTERVIEW-Lebanon needs $12 bln to cope with refugee "earthquake"

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