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UN suspends cash assistance to Syrian refugees in Lebanon

May 28, 2023 at 10:18 am

Syrian refugee in Tripoli, Lebanon on January 03, 2021 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

UN aid agencies in Lebanon on Saturday announced a temporary suspension of its cash assistance program to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, reports Anadolu Agency.

The move came amid disagreements between the aid agencies and the Lebanese government on aid provided to refugees in the country.

A joint statement by the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the World Food Program (WFP) said they held meetings on Friday with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar.

“Based on their requests, a decision has been made to temporarily pause the use of dual currency for next month’s disbursement of cash assistance to refugees, while discussions continue on appropriate modalities,” the statement said.

The statement, however, reiterated the UN “commitment to humanitarian principles in supporting the (Lebanese) Government to assist the most vulnerable people across Lebanon.”

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On Friday, the Lebanese social affairs minister rejected a plan by the UNHCR to pay aid to Syrian refugees in US dollars instead of paying them in local currency as was applied.

“Paying Syrians in dollars encourages them to stay in Lebanon (…) We need to get the wheel moving on returns, not staying,” Hajjar said.

Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, about 900,000 of whom are registered with the UNHCR.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been plagued by a crippling economic crisis that, according to the World Bank, is one of the worst the world has seen in modern times.