Gemayel Proposes National Strategy to Deal with Refugee Crisis in Lebanon

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As part of his visit to Australia, former President Amine Gemayel gave a lecture at the Western Sydney University where a conference was held to discuss the Syrian refugees crisis and the challenge it poses to human rights.

Gemayel said that the Syrian crisis constitutes, first and foremost, a challenge to the human rights of the Syrian people who are the primary victims of this war waged on them by their own government and its allies. He also noted that the Syrian war has posed a severe challenge to the Lebanese people as well, jeopardizing its legitimate right to security and self-determination.

Gemayel warned that the permanent presence of Syrian refugees is dangerously exacerbating a series of problems that, if left unaddressed, will provoke a national crisis and even lead to state failure.

The former president outlined that the bitter and tragic history of the Palestinians in Lebanon had contributed to the Lebanese authorities' decision not to set camps for Syrian refugees for fear that these "supposedly temporary" encampments would become autonomous and permanent entities challenging Lebanon's sovereignty and existence.

"Thus, any attempt to highlight the Lebanese perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis as a challenge to human rights must take into account the fact that Lebanon has paid a heavy price for the Palestinian presence in our country," he stressed.

Gemayel put forth a national strategy that the Lebanese state must adopt to deal with the lingering refugee crisis. The proposed strategy includes the following steps:

- Refusing the naturalization of Syrians and denying them a permanent residency in Lebanon;

- Ensuring the safe return of refugees to their homeland;

- Adopting a comprehensive government approach and assigning the refugees' return file to one working power/agency;

- Establishing full control of the border with Syria;

- Enabling the Foreign Ministry to set out a diplomatic policy that allows Lebanon to speak with one voice on the refugees affairs;

- Coordinating diplomatic efforts with Turkey, Jordan and other countries hosting refugees.