According to news reports, the one millionth Syrian refugee has been registered in Lebanon, a country of 4.5 million people. In February, Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States, Antoine Chedid, spoke candidly to a Brookings audience about the impact “in this tiny Lebanon” of what was just six weeks ago 900,000 refugees:
My thought this morning is a very painful shout on behalf of Lebanon and the Lebanese to be heard in this international capital of Washington and by the international community. It is indeed a shout of pain.
The refugees’ numbers, the statistics, the amount of the valuable assistance doesn’t matter that much anymore to us in Lebanon. What really matters is that the actual Syrian refugee crisis became obviously an existential problem for Lebanon. What matters really ladies and gentlemen is how to stop this hemorrhage; how to come to Lebanon’s need to help her cope with the huge impact of the Syrian refugees problem is important of course, but over and above, to improvise new realistic solutions to solve the Syrian refugee problem in Lebanon is the, the most important issue to us. We need solutions.
Ambassador Chedid described the “severe stress” that the Syrian presence is having in his country, including economic losses, higher unemployment, negative growth, and additional hostility in local communities. “The impact to the country,” he said, “is deep and dangerous and threatens to unravel the country economically, politically and socially.” Concluding, the ambassador described “the most dangerous repercussion of the Syrian crisis in this area”:
By assisting the neighboring countries of Syria to cope with the refugees problem, the international community will enhance the security and the stability of these countries. The spillover of the Syrian situation to these countries, Lebanon included of course, is capable of destabilizing the regional stability, thus creating a conducive environment for terrorism and terrorist organization as we in Lebanon are witnessing terrorist acts almost daily. … This issue of terrorism should be addressed not only by Lebanon or Iraq or the other neighboring countries but by the international community, thus enhancing to seriously help reaching a political solution to the Syrian tragedy.
Visit the event’s page to get a full transcript and audio recording of this event, which also included Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S.; the deputy assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration; a representative of Mercy Corps in Jordan; and Brookings scholars Megan Bradley and Kemal Kirişci.
The event was co-hosted by the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and Mercy Corps.