Lebanon president asks IOM to help repatriate Syrian refugees

Beirut, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Monday asked the International Organization for Migration for help to repatriate Syrian refugees who represent “a great burden” for Lebanon following the Beirut Port blast.

Aoun made the request during a meeting with Carmela Godeau, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) held at the Baabda palace, the Lebanese presidency said in a statement.

He asked IMO for help “for the return of displaced Syrian people to Syrian areas that have become safe,” the statement ran.

Aoun “considered that this return takes a great burden off Lebanon, which is also suffering a series of challenges, including the economic crisis and the coronavirus epidemic, in addition to the heavy human toll and material losses caused by the recent explosion in the port of Beirut.”

On 4 August a powerful blast took place at the Beirut port, powered by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse, leaving 182 dead and over 6,000 injured.

A few days after the blast, Aoun acknowledged that he had been aware of the existence of a “large amount” of the fertilizer in the harbor.

The explosion forced “the displacement of 300,000 people from their homes and properties that were damaged in the neighborhoods adjacent to the port,” Aoun told Godeau, according to the statement.

According to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 880,414 Syrian refugees are registered in the neighboring Lebanon, which hosts more refugees per capita than anywhere else in the world.

 Aoun claimed the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon was closer to 1.5 million.

Organizations such as Human Rights Watch have repeatedly denounced “pressure” from the Lebanese government for the repatriation of the Syrian refugees.

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