LibLInk: Jeremy Purvis: West’s response no match for Lebanon’s crisis

Lib Dem Peer Jeremy Purvis recently visited Lebanon, an already struggling country which has taken so many refugees from the conflict in Syria. Here he writes for the Scotsman about his experience.

The scale of the flow of refugees into Lebanon cannot be understated. Amnesty International puts the figure at more than 1.5 million. The flow of refugees into the country is proportionately the equivalent of the US taking most of the population of Mexico (little good a Trumpian wall). The number of refugees that the UK has accepted pales into insignificance by comparison.

Driving along the Syrian border area I saw informal settlement after informal settlement where Syrians were trying to make a living in the fruit and vegetable industry in this agricultural region. Their homes are nothing more than a flimsy plastic-sheeted shelter. Their possessions are what they could squeeze into an old Peugeot “taxi” that took them across the border. You see the threadbare tarpaulins with a weather-worn UN logo fluttering in the wind and it seems to sum up the response from the rest of world to their plight.

The tolerance, sympathy, understanding, generosity and support for the traumatised from Syria by the Lebanese organisations I met was hugely impressive. But unless we increase the resources available to support these vulnerable people it is hard to see how sustained improvements in access to health care, education and shelter will be delivered.

He calls for a stronger international response to the crisis:

We have left it to local bodies, often with insufficient support, to address these long-term questions. The Lebanese Organisation for Studies and Training, a non-religious body working to help build post-conflict peaceful communities in Lebanon, is one local charity working hard for long-term reconciliation.

There is a significant danger that, as with other crises, after the military operations and the humanitarian relief, our attention moves on. The colossal migration of people in the region is a challenge we are barely addressing now, but its consequences cannot be ignored. At the UN Security Council last week we saw an increase in diplomatic pressure on Russia and the Syrian regime. But in many respects a resolution to the conflict in Syria seems as far away as ever.

With no end in sight to the violence, the refugee crisis in Lebanon and other states in the region is likely to get worse before it gets better. We need a response from the international community that matches the scale of the challenges we face.

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  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Oct '16 - 12:01pm

    @ John McHugo,
    I have just found and read some of your articles on the internet, and I thank you for the succinct and readable account they give of the history of Syria and the Lebanon.

    Although I voted remain in the EU referendum, I had very grave concerns as to whether the EU could ever be ‘united we stand’. The Government’s of former Communist countries such as Hungary and Poland seem to want to enjoy the benefits of EU membership but be far from liberal. It was their attitudes to refugees that was one of the major reasons that I didn’t feel comfortable about remaining.

    The idea of Boris Johnson as foreign Secretary ( or in any other major office of state), fills me with dread.

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