Measured in relation to its own population, no other country in the world helps as many refugees as Lebanon. This small country has provided refuge for over 1.5 million people fleeing war and terror in Syria. Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to Beirut on Thursday (1 December) to demonstrate that Germany is a solid partner at Lebanon’s side. During his visit, Steinmeierwas able to see for himself the situation of the people from Syria.
“Lebanon’s attitude to the many people being forced to flee from the civil war in Syria deserves tremendous respect,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said before taking off for Beirut. The 4.8 million Lebanese have to date taken in around 1.5 million refugees from Syria. “The Lebanese people are generously sharing their lives with their Syrian neighbours who have fled to Lebanon to escape war and violence,” Steinmeier went on. The country is facing a mammoth task in caring for these people.
Germany is the biggest donor
Steinmeier began his visit near the city of Zahlé in the Bekaa Valley. More than 600 refugees from Syria have built huts and tents here on the clay ground. Steinmeier spoke to families, some of whom have been living there for years, in their shacks made of wood, corrugated iron and insulating foil. These people have to try and support their families as day labourers. Some 70 per cent of the refugees are living below the poverty line, and only half of the children can go to school. The refugees can only survive thanks to the aid supplied by the United Nations.
Germany has therefore been making intensive efforts to support Lebanon for years. As the largest donor to the country, Germany cooperates closely with the various aid programmes to this end. Steinmeier spoke with representatives of UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme about how the aid can be coordinated even better. Germany has made available a total of 689 million euros since 2012. German assistance focuses on providing food, education, water and healthcare.
Education for refugee children
Steinmeier met teachers and pupils at a public school where Lebanese and Syrian children are taught. Only with education and training can the hundreds of thousands of refugee children and young people look with hope to the future. Germany has therefore made available 42 million euros this year for a UNICEF programme aimed at enabling more Syrian children to go to school in Lebanon. Germany intends to step up its efforts in the education sphere in future.
Anchor of stability
During his visit, Steinmeier pledged another 10 million euros in support. The Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil expressed his thanks on behalf of his country for Germany’s assistance. Bassil and Steinmeier agreed to continue working together very closely on the refugee issue. Germany and Lebanon are linked by much more than just their engagement for the refugees from Syria. Steinmeier discussed the important partnership between the two countries with the new Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, as well as the current Prime Minister and his designated successor. “We have every interest in Lebanon remaining an anchor of stability in this unsettled region,” said Steinmeier. For two and a half years the country was in domestic crisis and the presidency was vacant. Michel Aoun was elected President a month ago. So there is once again a foundation from which to build a stable future for the country. “I hope that a new Government can now be formed soon,” Steinmeier said.