Lebanon News

Akkar village to begin evicting Syrian refugees

A Syrian refugee girl holds a cart outside tents at a refugee camp in Akkar, northern Lebanon December 9, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIRUT: Following an ultimatum delivered last month, an Akkar mayor said Tuesday that he intended to go through with the eviction of Syrian refugees from his municipality, alleging a lack of support from humanitarian organizations. “No one has contacted me since I made my [original] statement and things are becoming more complicated,” Minyara Mayor Tony Abboud told The Daily Star Tuesday, the day before his deadline. “So we are for sure going through with the eviction of Syrian refugees in Minyara tomorrow [Wednesday].”

In his March 30 statement, Abboud gave humanitarian aid groups 20 days to pledge their support to the village. If no plans were made to tackle infrastructure issues that he attributed to overpopulation and a lack of funds, Abboud announced that he would begin evicting the Syrians. However, the mayor was unable to give an estimate on the number of Syrians believed to be living in the village.

According to the mayor, without the help of outside groups, the municipality can no longer support its existing population of Syrian refugees.

Given the recognition of challenges faced by overpopulation caused by Syrian refugees, support from international agencies is now geared to both Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities with a focus on improving infrastructure.

“I even contacted some organizations before setting the deadline. They promised to speak with me, but no one did,” the mayor said, expressing frustration with the situation.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson Lisa Abou Khaled told The Daily Star that the UNHCR office in north Lebanon is in the process of liaising with local authorities to deal with the issue. Abou Khaled added that, as of Tuesday, no action had been agreed upon or taken.

The mayor cited issues of waste, sewage, electricity and water that, he claimed, have been exacerbated due to the influx of refugees in Minyara. “The municipality can no longer afford the additional demands on the town’s infrastructure that have been caused by refugees in the area,” Abboud said in his original statement.

Tuesday, Abboud told The Daily Star that the size of the refugee population in his municipality also posed a threat to the local economy.

“The Lebanese are poor, they are not receiving anything. The Syrians are opening businesses and restaurants and they don’t pay taxes,” Abboud said. “The Lebanese don’t have the right to employ Syrians, but the Syrians just employ Syrians.”

Heated rhetoric on the threat of Syrian competition in the Lebanese job market is common, but a lack of official numbers makes it difficult to validate such statements.

Although Wednesday will mark the beginning of the eviction, Abboud offered no coherent plan as to what the evicted refugees will do. “There are many places in Syria with no issues,” he said Tuesday. “Let them go back to the parts of Syria that are safe.”

The mayor has planned to appear on live television Wednesday to address alleged disregard on behalf of aid groups and obstacles faced by the north Lebanon municipality.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 19, 2017, on page 3.

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