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Lebanese rally in Brussels ahead of Syrian refugees conference

Supporters of Lebanese parties, Lebanese expats and a number of Lebanese MPs staged a protest Monday in Brussels ahead of an annual international conference on Syrian refugees.

The Lebanese protesters voiced rejection of perceived attempts to “keep the Syrians in Lebanon.”

The Lebanese Forces had recently called for the protest, which witnessed the participation of its lawmakers Pierre Bou Saab and Elias Stephan as well as Free Patriotic Movement official Naji Hayek and representatives of the Marada Movement, the Kataeb Party and the civil society.

The participants carried Lebanese flags and stressed support for Lebanon in the face of the Syrian refugee crisis, decrying that it has placed huge burdens on Lebanon, especially its economy.

The protesters also called on the international community and the European Union to “press for resolving this crisis” and for “supporting the refugees in their country and not in Lebanon.”

Many Lebanese, including politicians, have long pushed for Syrians who have fled 13 years of civil war at home to return, blaming them for exacerbating Lebanon’s woes, including a crushing economic crisis that began in late 2019.

Lebanon says it currently hosts around two million people from Syria — the world’s highest number of refugees per capita — with almost 785,000 registered with the United Nations.

In recent months, politicians have ramped up anti-Syrian rhetoric, with Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah urging Lebanese authorities to open the seas for migrant boats to reach Europe to pressure for more Western aid.

Earlier this month, the European Union announced $1 billion in aid to Lebanon to help tackle illegal migration, mostly of Syrians to nearby Cyprus, the bloc’s easternmost member.

Lebanon has long heavily relied on Syrians for manual labor, especially in agriculture and construction.

Lebanese security forces have intensified a crackdown on Syrians without residency permits, shutting down their businesses and forcing them to evacuate their homes.

Source: Naharnet