Lebanon_naturalisationBEIRUT: Former President and current Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel said Lebanon’s government should not naturalize some 7,000 Syrian refugees in the country and be sure to maintain an accurate count of those escaping violence in Syria, according to Gemayel’s press office.


“[I] urge the Lebanese government to make two decisions hand-in-hand: that Lebanon fulfill its obligations toward displaced Syrians and that it take measures to count the number of displaced in the country so as to avoid another problem of naturalization,” he told an Italian television station during his official visit to Rome.

Gemayel’s comments come a day after the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and the Higher Relief Council in northern Lebanon estimated at 7,000 the number of Syrian refugees who have crossed into Lebanon since the uprising in neighboring Syria began in mid-March of 2011.

According to the latest weekly report from the U.N. body, there are an additional several thousand unregistered Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Gemayel was also referring to the issue of up to 400,000 Palestinian refugees residing in and around 12 camps spread throughout the country.
The Lebanese government has consistently declined to grant various civil rights to Palestinian refugees for fear that it would pave the way to naturalization, which it argues would diminish their right to return to Palestine.

Palestinians are barred from many professions and cannot own property.
In his interview, Gemayel warned that events in Syria might upset the delicate equilibrium in his country, saying: “[I] hope that the situation in Syria stabilizes and that the Syrian people become able to choose the government they want because the more the situation in Syria is stable, the more Lebanon will be stable."

Gemayel also touched on the role played by the U.N. Interim Forces in Lebanon in preserving peace in the country, saying that UNIFIL’s presence indirectly prevented events in Syria from affecting Lebanon.

“U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 has contributed to ensuring stability in Lebanon, particularly in the south, thanks to the efficiency of UNIFIL and the complete coordination between the international forces and the Lebanese army, all of which has contributed indirectly to preventing a spillover into Lebanon of events in Syria,” he said.

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