Syrians flee to neighbouring Lebanon to escape violence
Thousands of people have fled Syria to neighbouring Lebanon to escape escalating violence in their country. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 4,000 have already crossed the border.
They are fleeing violence that began in January as Syrian police reacted to people who had taken to the streets to call for political reforms.
Andre Mahecic of UNHCR in Geneva says the agency is working together with the Lebanese government to help the needy families.
According to local Lebanese leaders, some 1,400 people have crossed into Whadi Kaled and Tall Bere regions over the past week alone from the Syrian town of Hall Kalakh. This is in addtion to those who have crossed since last April. According to the local authorities the estimate is that there are about 4,000 Syrians who have crossed into Lebanon recently.
Mr. Mahecic praised the quick action by the Lebanese government to address the growing refugee problem. He said caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri last week called on the government's High Relief committee to supervise and coordinate the response to the humanitarian needs of those displaced in the north.
The proactive role taken by the Lebanese authorities is quite encouraging because they are basically working to ensure that the new arrivals are assisted in a proper way.
Most of those who have crossed the border in recent weeks are women and children. They've had to leave abruptly without any belongings, according to Mr. Mahecic.
They have fled what they say is a heavy military bombardment of Tall Kalakh and surrounding areas. Most have found shelter with relatives or host families, and some are residing temporarily at the school in Tall Bire.
UNHCR has distributed numerous mattresses, blankets and food packages to assist the new arrivals. But what they need goes beyond basic survival items. Again Andre Mahecic.
In addition to their immediate need for food, shelter and medical assistance, they also need a lot of psycho-social support, and we are assisting the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs in the work on that. We are also supporting their efforts in the North by basically establishing a presence in the North and we are basically working with the authorities to assess the needs and provide the interventions necessary there.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the on-going violence and has called upon the country’s authorities to stop the bloodshed and respect international human rights.