Minister appeared to compare refugees to the corrupt and suggested they do not belong in Lebanon, a country home to one of the world’s largest Syrian refugee populations.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil is receiving criticism after a tweet that seemingly targeted the country’s refugee population.
In the tweet posted on Wednesday evening, Bassil said: “We will not be replaced in this land which bore prophets and saints; Not a refugee, nor a displaced (person), nor a corrupt (person).”
Lebanon is home to a Syrian refugee population of 1.5 million people, who make up a quarter of the country’s population of six million people.
The state is also home to a separate Palestinian refugee community of around 500,000 people, who have lived there since they or their ancestors were expelled by Zionist militias during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Bassil’s tweet provoked an angry reaction on social media. In the reply section under his tweet, a man named Naji Said said: “The corrupt choose to be corrupt, the displaced and refugees don’t choose to be so, there’s a difference”.
Others took a harsher tone against the senior member of the Lebanese government.
Hayam Dawood wrote: “Those who want to learn about racism and arrogance follow you, where is the tolerance and humanity?”
Opposition to refugees
Bassil is the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, and the leader of the Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement, the largest political party in Lebanon’s parliament.
The minister is fiercely opposed to the movement of Syrians into Lebanon and has previously called on refugees to return home. In January, he asked for international help to send refugees back to Syria.
According to activists, refugees in Lebanon are subject to widespread exploitation and discrimination, which is often sustained by Lebanese political parties, the state, and even civil society organisations.
Lebanon has become the choice destination for Syrian refugees due to its proximity and the ease of entering the country for Syrian nationals.
The two states have had close ties for much of their history and many Syrians worked in Lebanon before the Syrian Civil War began in 2011.
The number of arrivals has placed an upward pressure on prices and strained public services, but a majority of Syrians fear government repression or continued conflict should they decide to return home.
According to Pew, Lebanon has the second largest Syrian refugee population in the world, just after Turkey with 3.4 million people, and before Jordan with 660,000 people.