EU offers $1 bln in economic, security support to Lebanon


Von der Leyen said the aid’s distribution will start this year and continue until 2027…reports Asian Lite News

The EU has announced an aid package for Lebanon of 1 billion euros ($1.06 billion) to help boost border control and halt the flow of asylum-seekers and migrants from the country across the Mediterranean Sea to Cyprus and Italy.

It comes against a backdrop of increasing hostility toward Syrian refugees in Lebanon and a major surge in irregular migration of Syrians from Lebanon to Cyprus.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, meanwhile, has decided to reduce healthcare coverage for registered Syrian refugees by 50 percent.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during her visit to Beirut with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides that they hoped Lebanon would conclude a “working arrangement” with Frontex, the EU’s border agency.

Von der Leyen said the aid’s distribution will start this year and continue until 2027.

The aid will be dedicated to the most vulnerable people, including refugees, internally displaced people, and host communities.

The EU assistance — which is tied to Lebanon’s need to implement the required reforms and control its borders and illegal crossings with Syria — came in the wake of continued hostilities on the southern front between Hezbollah and the Israeli military.

The two officials arrived in Beirut following the European Council’s special meeting last month.

At the end of the meeting, the council confirmed the EU’s “determination to support the most vulnerable people in Lebanon, strengthen its support to the Lebanese Armed Forces, and combat human trafficking and smuggling.”

It also reaffirmed “the need to achieve conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees, as defined by UNHCR.”

The visit lasted hours in Lebanon and included a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Following a tripartite meeting and an expanded discussion in which ministers and security officials participated, Mikati commended the EU’s understanding of the Lebanese state’s demand to reconsider some of its policies regarding assistance to Syrian refugees in the country.

Mikati said: “Lebanon has borne the greatest burden, but it can no longer endure the current situation, especially since the refugees constitute around one-third of Lebanon’s population, which results in additional difficulties and challenges and exacerbates Lebanon’s economic crisis.”

He added: “What is more dangerous is the escalating tension between Syrian refugees and the Lebanese host community due to the crimes that are increasing and threatening national security.”

Mikati emphasized that “Lebanon’s security is security for European countries and vice versa,” adding that “our cooperation on this matter constitutes the real entry point for stability.”

He added: “We refuse to let our country become an alternative homeland, and everyone knows that the solution is political excellence.”

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