The United Nations on Thursday announced that more than one million refugees have flooded into Lebanon from Syria, creating what The New York Times described as “the highest concentration of refugees as a percentage of population in the world, with about one Syrian for every three Lebanese.”
“The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” António Guterres, United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said in announcing the new number in a joint statement with Lebanon’s minister of social affairs, Rachid Derbas. “The Lebanese people have shown striking generosity, but are struggling to cope.”
Mr. Derbas called the breached threshold of one million “an occasion to launch a humanitarian and political call under the title: ‘Lebanon should not be left alone.’ ”
The new assessments grabbed the attention of both media and policy analysts. Foreign Policy magazine’s Middle East Editor David Kenner tweeted what he described as a “staggering graphic” documenting the flow of refugees into Lebanon, noting that the number only included the “registered ones.”
Staggering graphic on 1m Syrian refugees in Lebanon. More staggering when you realize these are only registered ones. pic.twitter.com/cjepahf1jE
— DavidKenner (@DavidKenner) April 3, 2014
Analysts have only recently begun to seriously unpack the potential long-term consequences of the crisis for Lebanon. It is not straightforward to trace, for instance, how the presence of roughly one million new Sunnis will affect Lebanon’s notoriously delicate confessional balance, nor how it will undermine the control of the Shiite Hezbollah militia that dominates the country militarily and has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to paralyze it politically.
[Photo: Al Jazeera English / YouTube]