United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi highlighted the deteriorating situation of the Syrian refugees after a tour of an informal tented settlement for Syrians Friday and promised to push for greater assistance at the upcoming donor conference in London. “As the years pass since the beginning of the crisis, refugees are becoming more and more vulnerable,” he said during a news conference in Beirut. “We have to speak from these camps to the politicians and tell them enough ... enough with these conflicts and enough with the war.”
Grandi conducted a tour of the Saadnayel refugee settlement in the central Beqaa Friday. He also called for peace, saying it was the ultimate solution for the refugee crisis. “I think that the most important thing is to hope for peace in Syria,” Grandi said. “Most of the people, if not all of them, want to go back to their homes ... but they won’t do that now because they are too afraid.”
Grandi also praised Lebanon’s accommodation of refugees. “We are very grateful to Lebanon for hosting such a large number of people,” he said. “This country hosts the largest per-capita refugee [community] compared to the population.” There are currently 1.1 million Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in Lebanon, a nation of only 4 million people.
While Grandi expressed enthusiasm for the UNHCR’s efforts so far, he also pointed out that the agency’s finite resources are hindering the provision of vital services.
“There are many gaps in our system that our limited resources cannot fill,” he said.
He highlighted the success of UNHCR’s winterization program to help insulate and shelter refugees in Lebanon from the harsh winter weather. However, he cited specialized medical treatments as one of the shortfalls of UNHCR’s programs.
At the press conference, Grandi recounted the story of one family he met on his visit who had a son in need of special medical treatment for his eyes, a procedure that falls outside the scope of UNHCR’s medical services. “This is not something we can provide for everybody because it is too expensive ... these are areas that are difficult to manage, especially in the mass refugee situation that we have in the area,” Grandi said.
He did, however, vow to press for greater aid at the upcoming donor’s conference to be held in London in February 4. “I will make the case very strongly for refugees, to improve their conditions and the living conditions of the Lebanese host communities,” he said.
Grandi finished his speech by promising reporters that, “We will see a lot of interesting proposals in London.”