Britain’s Cameron visits Syrian refugee camp in eastern Lebanon


British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday visited a Syrian refugee camp in eastern Lebanon and spoke to residents.

“I wanted to come here to see for myself and hear for myself the stories of refugees and what they need,” he told British ITV news as he toured the camp.

Cameron toured the Torbol camp in eastern Lebanon, home to some 600 Syrian refugees, after arriving in the capital Beirut.

Most of the camp’s residents came from the central Syrian city of Homs, recaptured by government forces in fighting between 2012 and 2014, and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, controlled by Islamic State militants.

In Lebanon there are no official camps such as those established in Turkey and Jordan, but refugees have established informal camps across the country.

His visit comes as tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country continue to arrive in Europe.

Britain has bowed to overwhelming domestic and international pressure and announced that it will take 20,000 refugees from the camps on the borders of Syria over the next five years.

Speaking later alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Cameron praised the “immense generosity and resilience of Lebanese people” in dealing with the crisis.

“I was in the Bekaa Valley seeing for myself that hospitality and meeting some of the Syrian refugees that we will resettle in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“Britain is already the second largest donor to refugee camps to this whole crisis, really helping in a way that many other countries aren’t with serious amounts of money,” he said.

“We will go on doing that including increasing the amount of money we are giving to educate Syrian children here in Lebanon and elsewhere. I think that’s absolutely vital,” he added.

The British government will initially grant the refugees a humanitarian status that allows them to apply for asylum at the end of five years.

Cameron announced he is appointing Richard Harrington as minister for Syrian refugees to ensure the arrivals are given a “warm welcome” in Britain.

He stressed that he wanted to take in people directly from the camps to try to discourage them from paying smugglers and making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

Lebanon hosts around 1.2 million Syrian refugees — equivalent to more than a quarter of the country’s entire population.

French President Francois Hollande is also expected to visit Beirut next month to tour a Syrian refugee encampment and meet with Lebanese officials.