The UN’s refugee agency told the Associated Press on Friday, July 29, that discrimination and violence against Syrian refugees in Lebanon have soared in recent weeks as the country grapples with high food prices and shortages.
“We’ve seen tensions between Lebanese and Syrians in bakeries across the country,” said Paula Barrachina, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “In some cases, shooting and using sticks against refugees,” she added.
According to the World Food Program, half of Lebanon’s population is food insecure. People have also been dealing with high food inflation and a depreciating currency over the last three years.
Bread prices have skyrocketed in Lebanon since the Ukraine war and the Kremlin’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea. Lebanon imports the majority of its food and all of its fuel, and Ukraine and Russia supply more than 80% of the country’s wheat.
The price of wheat flour has risen 330% since the beginning of the economic crisis and 209% since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
That’s in addition to the destruction of Lebanon’s wheat silos in the Beirut Blast, in August 4th, 2020, which has drained the country’s crucial backup supply.
Violence and discrimination have reportedly increased as Lebanon is suffering from a wheat shortage.
A group of men in Beirut’s north suburbs, Bourj-Hammoud, beat a Syrian teenage boy with sticks and kicked him in the face near a bakery, according to a video shared on social media.
Furthermore, several bakeries in Lebanon are documented prioritizing giving bread bundles to Lebanese first, while Syrian refugees are forced to wait.
Last week, Lebanese authorities announced the formation of a security committee to prevent fights and scuffles in bakeries.
The UNHCR urged Lebanon’s government to ensure the rule of law and the protection of all citizens, while also urging the international community to increase aid to the country.
Lebanon received a $150 million loan from the World Bank in May, which the Parliament approved on Tuesday.
The loan “aims to finance immediate wheat imports to avoid supply disruptions in the short term and help secure affordable bread for poor and vulnerable households in Lebanon, including displaced population and refugees,” the World Bank said in an email to CNBC.