The war in Syria, which began in spring 2011, has triggered the biggest refugee disaster in the modern history of the Middle East. The large influx of refugees is an enormous test for host countries like Lebanon and Jordan. The COVID-19 pandemic and the situation in Beirut after the explosion disaster in August are further aggravating the tense humanitarian situation in Lebanon.
The Federal Government will therefore decide at the Council of Ministers on Wednesday to support aid projects of Austrian NGOs for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan with a total of 1 million euros from the Foreign Disaster Fund.
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg:
In 2019 and 2020 alone, we have so far made almost 15 million euros available from the Foreign Disaster Fund for this particularly challenging region. I can assure you that we will continue this commitment in the future and provide further assistance on the ground.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Lebanon has taken in some 1.5 million Syrian refugees. The already precarious economic situation in Lebanon is being further aggravated by the consequences of the explosion disaster in the Port of Beirut on 4 August 2020.
Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz:
We are helping directly in the crisis regions of the Middle East to ensure better care for Syrian refugees close to their home. Austria is therefore ensuring effective aid is provided where it is most needed.
Due to its close proximity to Syria, the economic, political and demographic pressure also remains high in Jordan. Out of a total population of 9.5 million, around 750,000 are registered as refugees. The majority of these are women and children who live outside the refugee camps in host communities. Over 90 percent of them live in poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically aggravated their income and employment situation. Most refugees are therefore dependent on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs.
Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler:
Lebanon is smaller than Upper Austria, but has the highest per capita refugee intake in the world. We want to help give Syrian refugees prospects for the future in the region. The Austrian Red Cross, Caritas and Care are helping to meet this challenge. By doubling the Foreign Disaster Fund it is possible to provide them with substantial support.