German Foreign Minister Steinmeier visits Lebanon
Enlarge image (© Deutsche Botschaft Beirut) German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam and with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil in Beirut on May 15th. Their talks focused on the situation of Syrian refugees in the country and in the region. At a joint press conference Steinmeier said that Lebanon’s humanitarian support verged on a miracle. He said people were aware of the “tremendous burden” that taking in refugees placed on the country. “This is why we will not leave Lebanon to fend for itself,” Steinmeier said. “Germany is supporting Lebanon and the other host countries in various ways.” He added: “Germany currently covers the school fees for 60 per cent of the Syrian children who are able to attend Lebanese schools. In the meantime, Germany’s total support for refugees from Syria and for the host countries comes to over a billion euros.”
Steinmeier also visited a community centre in Beirut run by the NGO Amel and supported by UNHCR and the German NGO Medico. The centre provides training courses and counselling to Syrian refugees and Lebanese people. Accompanied by Ninette Kelley, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, and the head of Amel, Dr. Kamel Muhanna, Steinmeier spoke with a large number of teenagers who are taking computer or English courses at the centre. The puppet-making course is also very popular. The hand puppets are used in counselling sessions and other activities.
Before leaving Berlin, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said the international community was facing “a refugee disaster on a scale it had not previously experienced” in what was now the fifth year of the Syrian civil war. Twelve million people had fled their homes, four million of them to Syria’s neighbouring countries. Steinmeier added: If we want to stop the tragedy playing out in the Mediterranean, then we also need to help these people before desperation drives them into the hands of people smugglers.”
Steinmeier said that Lebanon had long since reached the limits of its capacity to take in refugees and that it could not be left to cope with this great burden on its own.
At Steinmeier’s initiative, representatives of over 40 countries and aid organisations met at a refugee conference in Berlin in October 2014 to discuss better coordination of aid for Syrian refugees and the host countries. On the basis of a joint aid plan, support of 3.7 billion US dollars was pledged during the Syria donor conference in Kuwait in March 2015. For the first time, this included substantial pledges for the host countries.
Steinmeier said he now wanted to see how the international community was faring as regards implementing the Berlin Communiqué in Jordan and Lebanon.
Germany, which has provided almost a billion euros in aid since the start of the refugee crisis, is one of the largest donors. To date, it has provided 250 million euros to Lebanon and 210 million euros to Jordan.Enlarge image (© Deutsche Botschaft Beirut)