Syrian refugee crisis: MEPs visit Lebanon with resettlement as key priority

Senior British MEP Claude Moraes, however, has warned that EU humanitarian aid "on its own" will not solve the current refugee crisis in the Middle East.

MEP delegation to Lebanon | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

23 Sep 2016

Moraes is this week leading a seven-strong delegation of MEPs from Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE) committee, who are in Lebanon to look into the situation of refugees and resettlement.

The MEPs will visit refugee camps and meet the office of the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), its Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Unicef, international NGOs and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff working with the refugees. They will also meet representatives of the Lebanese Parliament and Minister for social affairs Rashid Derbas.

The group said they will focus on issues related to the resettlement of refugees currently living in Lebanon. The country is currently hosting about one million Syrian refugees alone, in addition to the large numbers of Palestinian refugees living in the country for decades.


Other MEPs on the delegation are: Branislav Škripek (ECR, SK), Tanja Fajon (S&D, SV), Frank Engel (EPP, LU), Maité Pagazaurtundua Ruiz (ALDE, ES), Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE) and Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, NL).

On Thursday, Moraes, who chairs the committee, told this website, "We have visited the Shatilla refugee camp for Palestinians, talked to Syrian refugee families in the process of resettlement and met with individual NGOs in the field, UNHCR, UNICEF and UNRWA as well as members of the Lebanese Parliament. 

"The programme is very intense with meetings at every level to give us an understanding of exactly how we can help".

Speaking exclusively from Lebanon, the Socialist deputy said, "At the same time we have had a delegation in New York and a big presence of the EU at the UN migration summit. 

"We understand that our humanitarian and development cooperation could go up by as much as four times. However, we also need to understand that aid on its own will not solve the problem, even if it is a very big factor.

"This year €265m in educational support has been given to Lebanon, the Lebanese people, Syrian refugees and Palestinians in Lebanon, but it cannot provide a long-term solution for a small country such as Lebanon which is facing social and political challenges.

"We need to think carefully for the future about how a country like Lebanon can truly see the assistance of the EU, not just in the substantial development aid that we are giving, but also in better assistance on issues like resettlement."

Moraes said, "We need better responsibility sharing between member states, and we need a more cohesive plan. For this our committee needs to create adequate tools for issues like resettlement and relocation, we need to ensure high protection standards on the ongoing revision of the asylum legislation. We will have a very challenging job ahead of us in the coming months."

The findings for the delegation, he said, will feed into the committee's legislative work in the area of asylum, notably on the proposals for an EU resettlement framework, presented by the Commission on 13 July, which aims to enhance the EU resettlement scheme so it can become a more efficient tool to provide protection to those in urgent need.

Moraes added, "As committee chair I will keep the resettlement proposals as a key priority for our committee to finalise".

He went on, "Against the backdrop of the worldwide challenges for refugee protection, resettlement has come to the forefront of managing flows of people in need of international protection. 

"With a population of 4.5 million, of which 1.5 million are refugees, Lebanon has surpassed the efforts of the EU in its response to one of the most severe global refugee crisis".

He said the delegation "will serve as a great opportunity for our members to engage with NGOs, including the UNHCR and the IRC, that are on the ground providing much needed humanitarian assistance" and "to get more insight into the policies to support the refugees and facilitate better integration by the Lebanese government".


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