The European Union Puts Pressure on Syrian Refugees through a Deal with Lebanon

The European Union is working to sign an agreement with Lebanon worth one million euros to reduce the number of Syrian refugees in Europe. According to the German News Agency – Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) –, the European Union plans to stop the flow of Syrian refugees from Lebanon. The deal aims for the European Union to spend one billion euros to improve the health, educational and social services in Lebanon, as well as support the Lebanese Armed Forces in combating smuggling gangs.

The proposed agreement includes facilitating legal immigration. According to European Union officials, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will visit Cypriot President in Lebanon to announce the support package, after the complaints from the Cypriot government about the increasing numbers of Syrian refugees from Lebanon, and Cyprus’s request to the European Union to reduce unregulated asylum.

According to Cyprus government, refugees have been arriving by boat almost every day during the recent months due proximity. The number of refugees arriving since the beginning of the year has reached 4,000 immigrants. Although this number of migrants is less than those arriving by boat from North African countries to Italy, Spain and Greece, however, it is large compared to the population. Cyprus is suffering from an increase in asylum applications, the overcrowding of refugee camps, and – as per the president weeks before – that Cyprus is not in a position to receive more Syrian refugees.

The President of the European Commission promised to help Cyprus and stated:

We, the Europeans, decide who comes to Europe and under what circumstances, not smugglers, human traffickers and organized gangs.”

The Chairperson of the Commission referred to the agreements signed with both Egypt and Tunisia, since the two countries commit to stopping unregulated immigration to the European Union in exchange for financial aid amounting to billions. According to the proposed agreement with Lebanon, the allocated amount reaches billion euros until 2027, of which Lebanon will receive the first batch at the beginning of the summer.

Lebanon is one of the countries that received the largest number of Syrian refugees, with 1.5 million refugees. Lebanon is also suffering from major economic and financial crisis; hence, it is doubtful that the proposed sums by the European Union will be sufficient to improve the situation in Lebanon, because the economic crisis generated negative anti-Syrian trend. Many Syrian refugees suffer from fear for their families, as well as suffer from discrimination at the official level, according to human rights activists. Human Rights Watch also reported that the Lebanese authorities arrested and tortured a number of refugees to force them to return to Syria.

In addition, Lebanon suffers from unstable political conditions, as in there is still no head of state, and there is a struggle between the political components for power, as well as the military conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, which could escalate and expand at any moment.

According to Riad Qahwagi, director of Near East Foundation (NEF), the European Union is making a big mistake in Lebanon, since it has a long history of problems resulting from sectarian conflicts, which often leads to a power vacuum.

According to Qahwagi, Lebanon is not ready to receive refugees, Lebanese politicians who receive European Union funds will take to the podium and demand the expulsion of the Syrians from the country, and the European Union’s belief that Lebanon is capable of stopping the flow of refugees to Europe is an illusion.

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