BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s foreign minister called Tuesday for a “vow of solidarity” from the international community for millions of Syrian refugees and the countries such as Lebanon struggling to host them.
Ahead of a one-day conference at his ministry in Berlin, Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed the need to focus not only on the refugees’ humanitarian needs but also on shoring up the stability of neighbouring states grappling the influx.
More than three million Syrians have fled their country since the uprising that began in March 2011, with most taking shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
“Whoever has seen how much, in Lebanon for example, the public health system, the schools, the water supply and much else is utilised by the 1.5 million refugees, knows or can guess how much of an explosive force that really is for the social structures of a country like Lebanon,” Steinmeier told reporters.
The German minister was joined by Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam who is attending the meeting together with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, several foreign ministers and other representatives from more than 40 countries and international bodies.
Lebanon already hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees, proving an enormous strain for a country with a population of just four million.
The influx has tested overstretched infrastructure and created fresh tensions.
“We view this matter as one of the most important and most dangerous that Lebanon is facing today,” Salam told reporters late Monday ahead of talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Lebanon last week said it would ask the UN to stop registering refugees who enter the country from war-torn Syria, formalising a decision to all but close its borders to them.