Syrian Refugees Face Increased Hostility, Says Head of Caritas Lebanon

Maronite Priest Say Locals Resent Help Being Given to the Refugees

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As Syrian refugees continue flooding into Lebanon, the President of Caritas Lebanon, Fr. Paul Karam, has decried the situation as disturbing, noting that locals feel threatened by their increased presence, and hostility is increasing.

“The effects of an uncontrolled influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon open a disturbing scenario,” Fr. Karam said, reported Fides Wednesday.

Saying “the concern has reached the warning level,” Fr. Karam explained that after weapons were found in refugee camps, the local population’s hostility “towards refugees continues to grow.”

As a result, he noted, “Everyone now sees refugees at the disposal of regional powers who want to destabilize Lebanon or dominate it, preventing it from having an independent policy”.

The Caritas president’s remarks were made in response to what happened in the area of Arsal, where in recent days the army destroyed a refugee camp and arrested hundreds of people. 

Widespread reports by humanitarian organizations claim the operation was spoiled by the army’s violent behavior and violations against refugees. Hundreds of men in the camp, during the initial stages of the operation, protested. They chanted slogans of support to the jihadists of the Islamic State. 

“In some refugee camps,” Fr. Karam noted, “weapons were found. Refugees are more than one million and one hundred thousand.”

Although the Church “warns against the criminalization of refugees as such,” he said this hostile sentiment is growing among the population, “we cannot deny it and we are not able to appease it.”

“We are criticized for the help we give to refugees,” the head of Caritas Lebanon added. “It is natural to raise questions: why are Syrian refugees not checked at the entrance and during their stay like what happens in Jordan or Turkey? Why have Arabia and Qatar so far not received even a Syrian refugee?”

Regularly, the border between Syria and Lebanon was crossed by the incursions of jihadist groups, such as al-Nusra. In retaliation for the pro-Assad involvement of the Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict, the group threatens to execute nine policemen and Lebanese soldiers held hostage.

In addition, sources state there is a growing climate of sectarian conflict throughout the Bekaa Valley.

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