BEIRUT: British Home Secretary Amber Rudd is reportedly looking to extend the U.K. government’s refugee resettlement scheme for Syrians after a visit to Lebanon this week. While in Lebanon Tuesday, Rudd mentioned that she was looking into the possibility of extending the resettlement scheme past its initial target of 20,000 people by 2020.
Some 10,538 have already been resettled, of whom more than half are children, Rudd told the BBC during the visit to Lebanon.
“I was very pleased to visit Lebanon for the first time, a country that has shown enormous generosity in hosting refugees since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011,” Rudd said in a statement released by the Foreign Office Thursday. “Lebanon’s security and stability is very much the U.K.’s security and stability, and our support to Lebanon with over 600 million pounds [nearly $837 million] of assistance since 2011 is a testament of that.”
Rudd told the BBC during her visit that “20,000 [refugee resettlements] is definitely achievable by 2020, and I hope that we may get there earlier than that in fact. ... At the moment I am consulting with stakeholders and really engaging with other departments to decide what we should have to replace that [number with] when we go forward after 2020.”
The BBC also reported Rudd as saying that the British public should be “proud” of what the resettlement scheme has achieved, adding that “it is the largest number of any European country of resettlement from the region.”
Rudd met with representatives from the U.N. agencies responsible for assisting the British government in carrying out its resettlement program for Syrian refugees.
She also met with Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to discuss the upcoming Rome II conference, intended to secure further financial support for the Lebanese Army and security forces.
Rome II is just one of three major donor conferences to assist Lebanon scheduled for this year, with the Cedre Conference – or Paris IV – to support the country’s battered economy on April 6 and then, later in spring, the Brussels conference to support Syrian refugees and countries hosting displaced peoples.
The U.K., Rudd noted, has contributed over 84 million pounds to the Internal Security Forces and the Army since 2011. She described the U.K. as “one of Lebanon’s most significant partners on security.”
The U.K. has taken a leading role in assisting the Lebanese Army and security forces in recent years, being a key partner in funding, arming and training the country’s four new land border regiments to prevent spillover from the Syrian conflict.
Along with donations of arms and training, the U.K. government has provided a number of Land Rovers for the Army.
Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary elections were also discussed, with Rudd expressing hope that there would be “increased female representation in the Lebanese Parliament” – a common refrain among U.K. officials in conversation with their Lebanese counterparts. During her visit earlier this week, the home secretary also visited a refugee settlement near the Bekaa Valley’s Qubb Elias, meeting families there.
Separately, EU Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen visited Qubb Elias Thursday to meet refugee families. According to a statement from the EU, the block has reached approximately 750,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon through its humanitarian aid office, the ECHO.
“What I have seen today reminded me of the extremely difficult situation the refugees [have been] facing for seven years, in particular now in the middle of the winter season,” Lassen said.
“We are here today to say that there are people seeking refuge in Lebanon who have lost almost everything and that there are the Lebanese who are hosting them and showing incredible hospitality and generosity,” she added.
Since 2012, the EU has distributed over 1.1 billion euros ($1.36 billion) to both to Syrians and Lebanese affected by the crisis.