BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s economic collapse deepened on Monday as protesters blocked roads in Beirut and Tripoli due to power cuts and the Bank of Lebanon’s decision to cut subsidies for good. to fuels.
The protests coincided with the Lebanese interim government’s renewed call for international efforts to help resolve the Syrian refugee crisis in the country.
In Qasqas and Al-Mazraa Corniche, Beirut, crowds used trash cans to block streets in response to the latest hit in the cost of living.
One protester said: “We can’t take this situation any longer. We die. There is no electricity, water or medicine, and death awaits us near the doors of hospitals because we cannot afford to pay for their services.
The lack of life-saving drugs for cancer patients in Lebanon has recently made headlines amid a growing crisis in the country’s health sector.
Meanwhile, Petrol Station Owners Union member George Brax said: “The central bank lifted fuel subsidies completely on Monday. The gasoline that will be sold at the stations is now free of any subsidy and will be sold according to the dollar exchange rate on the black market.
A gallon of gasoline (20 liters) increased by 20,000 Lebanese pounds ($13.18), with the price of a gallon reaching 638,000 pounds, subject to exchange rate fluctuations.
The Banque du Liban stopped guaranteeing a 20% subsidy rate on Monday, prompting importers to buy dollars on the black market (at a rate of 36,000 pounds to the dollar) to bring fuel into the country for the sell to gas station owners. According to the central bank’s Sayrafa platform, they used to buy dollars at around 7,000 pounds less than the black market exchange rate.
Also on Monday, the Lebanese Interior Minister urged representatives of Western embassies in the country to “unite their efforts and respond to the efforts of the Lebanese authorities” to resolve the situation of Syrian refugees.
“Neglecting the issue of Syrian refugees can lead to an increase in hosts’ resentment against the state and a decrease in their confidence in it and in the Lebanese justice system, as well as the social and psychological consequences this can have on hosts. “said the Minister.
In a report released on Monday, the Litani River Authority noted breaches of agreements, particularly in the Bekaa region, related to trade, establishment of farms, cattle breeding and opening of stores selling clothes, food and electronic products. devices in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The report noted that what was happening “contradicts the definition of a refugee in international agreements, is an exception to the provisions of Lebanese laws and contrasts with the situation of refugees in various countries”.
The authority called on the Lebanese interior minister, public and interior security forces and the ministers of social affairs and labor to take appropriate measures.
A plan by the Lebanese authorities to tackle overcrowding and send 15,000 refugees a month back to Syria has been rejected by the UN refugee agency.
Lebanon’s Acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati recently sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raising concerns about the refugee crisis.
Civic Influence Hub Executive Director Ziad Al-Sayegh said, “What the Lebanese authorities are doing regarding the Syrian refugee issue is based on populism and stems from intimidation, incitement and begging.
The official questioned the reasoning behind not “unifying the statistical figures of the number of refugees and classifying Syrian workers and Syrian refugees”, as well as the absence “of inspections for entry and exit of refugees in Syria”.
He also asked why “400,000 Syrian refugees had not returned to Qalamoun, Zabadani and Al-Qusayr areas”, and what he said was Lebanon’s “refusal to sign a cooperation protocol with the UNHCR , by which they can determine where the refugees have come from”. from where they can return and what are the ways of their return.
However, he also blamed the slow response of the international community to resolve the crisis.
“What is happening may create tension between refugees and hosts and may endanger Lebanon’s national security,” Al-Sayegh added.