EU vows more aid for Lebanon with Syria refugees

Friday 18/03/2016
Mogherini: We are together in managing this crisis

BEIRUT - EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini pledged Monday during a visit to Lebanon to step up assistance to the tiny Mediterranean nation which is hosting over a million Syrian refugees.

After meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam in Beirut, Mogherini told reporters the talks had centred on "how we can help each other in managing the immense refugee crisis we are both facing.

"We agreed from the European Union side to increase the support to Lebanon that has been significant so far," she said.

"We are together in managing one of the worst if not the worst humanitarian crisis," she said after also holding talks with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

The EU has already granted Lebanon 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) since the outbreak of war in neighbouring Syria in 2011, she said.

Mogherini's visit came as Europe grapples with its worst migrant crisis since World War II.

But while over a million migrants reached Europe's shores in 2015 alone, Syria's neighbours have shouldered the bulk of the refugee crisis triggered by the five-year war.

Fragile Lebanon alone is hosting more than 1.1 million refugees -- a huge number for a country of four million people.

Mogherini's visit also came as a landmark EU-Turkish deal took effect, with Brussels seeking to curb the influx to Europe.

"Our work on Syrian refugees isn't only in Turkey but also very strong and from the very beginning in Lebanon," she said, adding that she would "bring the same message" on a visit to Amman on Tuesday.

Lebanon has since the outbreak of war in Syria become home to the world's highest refugee population per capita.

Turkey hosts 2.7 million Syrians, while over 630,000 have sought shelter in Jordan, according to the United Nations.