Lebanon would never survive if half a million Palestinian refugees and 1.6 million Syrian refugees remained in the country, the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, said yesterday.
Aoun remarks came during a meeting held at the presidential palace in the Lebanese capital of Beirut with a delegation from the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), headed by its secretary general Souraya Bechealany.
Aoun called on the MECC to help the Lebanese government resolve the Syrians refugees' issue "by persuading Western countries to accept the refugees return to their countries as soon as possible."
"Israel has declared that the Palestinian refugees would remain where they are," he pointed out, warning that if the refugees remained in Lebanon, "its demographics would change completely."
There are 174,422 Palestinian refugees currently live in 12 camps and 156 Palestinian communities across Lebanon's five governorates, according to a report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in 2017.
Lebanon – with an estimated population of 4.5 million – complains of the refugees' burden it has been facing since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon reached 997,000 by the end of November 2017, excluding the Syrians who are not registered with UNHCR.