ARSAL, Lebanon – Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister is keeping up his criticism of the United Nation’s refugee agency, saying it is discouraging Syrian refugees from returning home.
“It’s time to tell them enough, that’s it,” says Gibran Bassil, saying Lebanon’s economy is collapsing.
He spoke Wednesday in the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal near the border with Syria, days after he ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for UNHCR staff. He has accused the agency of intimidating Syrian refugees in Lebanon and discouraging their return.
Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, or about a quarter of the country’s population, putting a huge strain on the economy. Sentiments against refugees have been increasing, especially after groups calling for their return made major gains in last month’s parliamentary elections.