by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese experts on Thursday highlighted the challenges posed by the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the necessity of finding a suitable resolution to address them.
Ziad Sayegh, an expert in refugee and immigration affairs and executive director of Civic Influence Hub, a non-governmental organization, said the first step that the Lebanese government must take is to collect data and know the precise number of Syrian refugees, a move that he says would give a clearer idea of the real situation on the ground.
"Refugees can be categorized as students, workers, and others, which would give an idea about their roles, social situation, and contributions to the Lebanese labor market," Sayegh said, adding an analysis of the data could facilitate the gradual return of Syrian refugees to their home country.
Sayegh made the remarks during a symposium organized by the American University of Beirut to discuss the challenges faced by Lebanon, including those posed by the large number of displaced Syrian refugees in the country.
Lebanon, with a population of more than 5 million, remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita, with the government estimating around 2 million Syrian refugees living in the country.
The overall cost of hosting Syrian refugees in Lebanon is estimated to have reached 40 billion U.S. dollars in terms of electricity, medicine, and water consumption, according to the Lebanese Minister of Displaced Issam Charafeddine.
Lebanese authorities have been urging the international community to help return Syrian refugees to their home country as they claim Lebanon, which has been plagued by an unprecedented financial crisis, can no longer afford to host a large number of displaced people on its territories.
However, the efforts exerted by Lebanon in this direction have yielded little result. In July, the European Parliament passed a resolution appealing for crisis-ridden Lebanon not to deport Syrian refugees. According to the resolution, conditions are not met for the voluntary, dignified return of refugees in conflict-prone areas in Syria.
Josiane Matar, a researcher on refugees and migration, proposed the Lebanese government draft a plan for the return of refugees, as she believes relying solely on financial support from international organizations is insufficient to manage the crisis.
"The government must have a clear plan by specifying its role and the role of UN organizations and other stakeholders," she said.
Matar added that refugees must also be given the chance to take part in making decisions that are related to them.
"Refugees often do not have the chance to express their needs and evaluate the support they receive. There should be better communication between refugees and host communities for this purpose," she said. ■