Lebanon said Thursday it will ask the UN to stop registering refugees who enter the country from war-torn Syria, as it formalised a decision to all but close its borders to them.
“As far as the issue of restricting the number of (refugee) cases is concerned, the government agreed to stop welcoming displaced people, barring exceptional cases, and to ask the UN refugee agency to stop registering the displaced,” Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said.
Only refugees whose files had been approved by the government would be given refugee status in Lebanon, he told reporters.
The announcement came less than a week after Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas was quoted as saying that Lebanon “no longer officially receives any displaced Syrians”.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) had previously confirmed increased restrictions at the border with Syria.
“Our understanding is that people who are coming to claim refugee status are not being permitted to enter in the way that they were previously,” Ninette Kelley, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, said on Saturday.
Not all Syrian refugees enter Lebanon through official crossings, however, with many traversing the porous and difficult-to-patrol frontier.
Lebanon already hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees, an enormous strain for a country with a population of just four million.
The influx has tested overstretched infrastructure, and created fresh tensions.
Politicians have long warned Lebanon cannot continue to shoulder such a disproportionate refugee burden, and calls for the closure of the border with Syria have increased after numerous security incidents.
In August, jihadist groups crossed from Syria into the eastern town of Arsal, sparking clashes with the military that left dozens of people dead.
The retreating jihadists took with them some 30 Lebanese police and troops as hostages, and have since executed three of them.
The UNHCR has regularly urged the international community to provide Lebanon with greater assistance to tackle the influx.
The agency has also called on other countries to open their doors to fleeing Syrians to ease the burden on Lebanon and other neighbouring states.
More than three million Syrians have fled their country since the uprising that began in March 2011, with most taking shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
West Virginia mail carrier busted for helping GOP by tampering with absentee ballot requests
A mail carrier in West Virginia is facing jail time after he was caught tampering with absentee ballot requests in a way that suppressed turnout in local Democratic primary elections.
BuzzFeed News reports that 47-year-old Thomas Cooper pleaded guilty this week to attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election when he switched West Virginia residents' ballot requests from Democratic to Republican ballots.
Cooper altered a total of eight different ballot requests, although he told investigators that he did it "as a joke" and didn't mean to cause any harm. Cooper's attorney, Scott Curnutte, similarly told BuzzFeed News that Cooper's actions had just been a "silly lark."
France investigates report of bodies ‘left to rot’ at Paris research centre
French investigating magistrates will probe claims that human corpses donated for science were left to rot and be eaten by rats at a university research facility, the Paris prosecutor's office said Thursday.
A probe into "violations of the integrity of a corpse" was handed over to the magistrates by prosecutors who handled the initial phase of the investigation after l'Express magazine reported the scandal last November.
Dutch ‘golden age’ statue stirs ghosts of colonial past
The statue of a Dutch 17th century colonialist has become a flashpoint for the debate in the Netherlands on its past of slavery and colonization in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.
For some, the sculpture of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, a key official in the Dutch East India Company considered a national hero for colonising what is now Indonesia, is a memorial to the Dutch "Golden Age".
Traditionalists, like populist eurosceptic leader Thierry Baudet, have laid flowers at the foot of the statue in the port town of Hoorn to show support after several statues of historical figures were damaged in the Netherlands.