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Keep refugees in Syria, says Lebanese cleric

The head of Lebanon's Maronite Christian Church suggested yesterday that Syrian refugees should be housed in camps inside Syria, reflecting growing frustration among Lebanese over the burden imposed on their country by their neighbours' war.

The United Nations has registered one million refugees in Lebanon since the conflict began three years ago, the highest concentration of refugees worldwide. They are housed in homes and local communities rather than refugee camps.

Cardinal Beshara al-Rai, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, told a news conference in Geneva that the presence of so many Syrians represented a huge economic, social, political and security burden for Lebanon.

"Why not install some camps for them in Syrian territory where there is security?

"The area of Syria is 20 times greater than that of Lebanon," he said.

"There is plenty of spare space in secure terrority, or at least to facilitate the passage of humanitarian aid in no man's land between the borders of Lebanon and Syria."

Ordinary Lebanese had welcomed the Syrians but were now paying a price for doing so, he said.

"They take all the work from the Lebanese people, the Lebanese are chased out."

Al-Rai did not elaborate on the suggestion of building camps in Syria, or say where they could be built.

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