Gebran Bassil: Curb Refugees to Lebanon

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees, and Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, sit with Syrian refugees at their temporary place of shelter in Saadnayel in the Bekaa valley 15 December , 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Mohamed Azakir)

By: Qassem Qassem

Published Monday, December 24, 2012

Syrian refugees fleeing their country to Lebanon will soon realize that they have traded the threat of imminent violence for a new one: racism. Fueled by Lebanese Minister of Energy Gebran Bassil’s rhetoric, these refugees left their livelihoods behind only to be welcomed with the “patriotic” positions of the Free Patriotic Movement’s (FPM) minister.

According to the news website Elnashra, Bassil called for closing the Lebanese borders to Syrian refugees. This is not a racist position – God forbid we accuse the energy minister of racism. Bassil describes his position as purely patriotic.

Bassil later denied he said such a thing and explained that he called for controlling the number of refugees, as was done in Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey. Bassil’s positions show that he might not have suggested closing the border in the face of all the refugees coming from Syria – just the Palestinians.

In a recent speech he gave on Lebanese Wine Day, he called for preserving every inch of Lebanese land. “When we say we don’t want Syrian and Palestinian refugees, it is because they take our place,” Bassil said. A country that “has no raw materials” can not bear the economic burden that the new refugees bring with them, he added. He asked, “Don’t we not have enough Palestinians in Lebanon to let the rest of the refugee camps come to Lebanon too?”

One can not blame the man, he does not know Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. Had he visited, he would have found out that it is a small Damascus. Bassil perhaps does not realize that the refugees did not come out of their volition to Lebanon’s camps, which are nothing but ghettoes thanks to his “patriotism” and that of his ilk.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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