According to research by the German Press Agency, the EU wants to stop the influx of refugees from Syria currently living in Lebanon with financial aid worth around one billion euros. According to EU officials, the EU money will be used to strengthen Lebanon’s health, education and social services.

Funds are also earmarked for the country’s security authorities and armed forces, as well as for the fight against smuggling gangs and for economic and financial reforms. According to the plans, legal migration will be made easier.

The support package is expected to be announced today during a trip to Lebanon by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulidis, officials said. The Cypriot government in particular recently criticized the growing number of Syrian refugees from Lebanon as no longer sustainable and called for EU action.

The number of arrivals has recently increased dramatically

According to Head of State Christodoulidis, Syrians from Lebanon, about 160 kilometers away, have been arriving by boat in the EU island republic in the eastern Mediterranean almost every day in the past few months. Around 4,000 migrants have been counted since the beginning of the year – in the first quarter of the previous year there were only 78.

In absolute numbers, this is significantly less than in Italy, Spain and Greece, for example, where boat refugees arrive from countries such as Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey. However, relative to its population, nowhere in the EU has as many asylum applications as Cyprus. The refugee camps on the island are overcrowded. “We are not in a position to take in any more Syrian refugees,” Christodoulidis told the editorial network Germany (RND) a few weeks ago.

EU Commission President von der Leyen has therefore promised help. “It is we, the Europeans, who decide who comes to Europe and under what circumstances. And not the organized crime of smugglers and human traffickers,” she explained in a speech last Sunday, referring to the agreements already in place with countries such as Tunisia and Egypt. These states are also supposed to stop unwanted migration to the EU in return for billions in financial aid.

The amount earmarked for Lebanon is for the period until the end of 2027. The first high three-digit million sum could flow as early as the summer.

Anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon

However, it is questionable whether the EU money will be enough to ease the situation in Lebanon. The country is currently in the worst economic and financial crisis in its history and, with more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, is one of the countries that have taken in the most refugees per capita in the world. This has led to an anti-Syrian mood and many refugees no longer dare to go out on the streets for fear of attacks.

“I’m afraid to leave my house. When I leave the house in the morning, I leave in fear. I’m always afraid that something could happen to my family while I’m away,” says the Syrian named Khaled, who lives in his hometown Left Aleppo in 2012 because of the civil war. The Lebanese treated Syrians like an enemy.

Reports of arbitrary arrests and torture

According to human rights activists, Lebanese officials have been using discriminatory practices against Syrians for years to force them to return to Syria. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that in recent months, Lebanese authorities have arbitrarily arrested, tortured and sent Syrians, including opposition activists and army defectors, back to Syria.

The Lebanese rulers are of the opinion that the civil war country is stable and safe enough to guarantee a return. However, the United Nations and other human rights organizations see this differently. They point out that the economic situation makes survival almost impossible and that political refugees have to fear for their lives. In addition, the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad also does not want the refugees back in his country.

Government only able to act to a limited extent

The situation in Lebanon is also politically difficult. In contrast to the authoritarian states of Tunisia and Egypt, the country currently does not even have a head of state. For a year and a half, the election of a president here has repeatedly failed due to power struggles within the political elite. The country is currently led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The government is only able to act to a limited extent.

This is also why the EU now wants to strengthen the country’s armed forces. They are seen as a stabilizing factor in the country, which borders Syria and Israel – also in view of the activities of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. It fires rockets, artillery and anti-tank grenades at Israel from Lebanon – according to its own statements, out of “solidarity” with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel, in turn, is fighting Hezbollah’s positions with air and artillery attacks.

Middle East expert warns of big mistake

In view of this mixed situation, the EU’s plans are also viewed critically. “The EU is making a big mistake in Lebanon,” says Riad Kahwaji, director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. The country has a long history of internal problems, driven by sectarian conflicts, which continue to lead to a power vacuum to this day. Lebanon is in no way prepared to be a receiving country for refugees. The same politicians who are now receiving money from the EU would be on podiums calling for the Syrians to be thrown out of the country. “It is crazy to see that Europeans believe in the illusion that the Lebanese authorities are able to stem the flow of refugees.”