We in Lebanon understand the moral obligation that hinders the closing of borders in the face of Syrian refugees and we have nothing against Syrians who oppose a regime that occupied and killed our people.
We have never turned down Palestinians who sought asylum in Lebanon unless they constitute a direct threat to its sovereignty like what happened before when they assumed that Lebanon could be an alternative homeland together with the Syrian turned the country into a battlefield and a venue for settling scores and operating intelligence agencies.
Syrians have chance to be burden free
Lebanon, which had suffered greatly from those in the past, cannot afford to tolerate more. According to official statistics, the number of Syrian refugees has so far reached 200,000 and they could amount to half a million in 2013. This is a huge number in the light of Lebanon’s deteriorating economic conditions, but Syrian refugees can go back home as soon as the conflict is resolved especially of the new regime offers to compensate them for their losses and also because life in Lebanon is too expensive for them. But this is not the case with Palestinians. Syrians still have the chance to get rid of their burden, but Palestinians do not, especially that the Palestinian cause has not become as pressing as it had once been in the midst of the current development.
Turkey, a country much bigger and more economically powerful than Lebanon, has obliged the International Community to face its responsibilities. Jordan did the same because it is not financially capable of supporting the non-stop flow of refugees. Lebanon is the only country that is unable to take a firm stance on the matter citing humanitarian considerations.
The Lebanese government, which contains parties that support the Assad regime, is not expected to make such a daring decision as limiting the number of refugees flocking from Syria, particularly Palestinians because once they create their own security islands inside refugee camps, authorities are never capable of tracking them down. The number of Palestinian refugees will, therefore, increase and we will find ourselves dealing with a new reality, new settlers, and a new burden that will summon up the memory of the Palestinian nightmare of the 1970s.
The allies of the Syrian regime in Lebanon need to start realizing that the Lebanese people take precedent and that they should be given priority in benefiting from the country’s already-diminishing resources… until the “discovery” of oil.
(Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni)
*This article was first published in the Lebanon-based Annahar on Dec. 31, 2012. Link: http://newspaper.annahar.com/article.php?t=makalat&p=3&d=24951