Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson traveled to Lebanon on Saturday to familiarize himself with the conditions of refugees in the area, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Yesterday, he met with Georges Kettaneh, Secretary General for the Lebanese Red Cross, and subsequently visited one of seven so-called clinics on wheels, which Icelanders have given financial support. The project provides Syrian refugees with basic healthcare service and serves an important role in the area.
Sigmundur also met with Tammam Salam, prime minister of Lebanon, and Nabib Berri, speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon. Moreover, Sigmundur visited the Shatila refugee camp of Palestinian refugees, spoke with refugees and representatives of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Today, Sigmundur plans to visit another refugee camp in Lebanon and meet with leaders of UNHCR and other officials.
He described his visit to a refugee camp in Lebanon Sunday in an interview with Vísir, “This is not a large country; it’s about the size of North-Múlasýsla county [Northeast Iceland], if I remember correctly, but there is an enormous number of refugees here―refugees who have been arriving from Syria because of the war, but there is also a large number of Palestinian refugees who have lived here for generations even, ever since 1948.”
Almost two million Syrian refugees lived in refugee camps in Lebanon in December of last year, but the country’s area is only 10,452 km2 (4,035 miles2). Sigmundur says this has created a lot of strain on authorities in Lebanon. “They fear such a large stream of refugees can threaten the stability of the society.”
After his trip to Lebanon, Sigmundur will travel to London to meet with European leaders to discuss the situation in Syria.