The Lebanese authorities have suspended medical assistance to Syrian refugees in the north of the country, a government source said on Wednesday.
“Assistance through the Higher Relief Council has been temporarily suspended,” an official in Prime Minister Najib Mikati's office told AFP, adding that “the reason behind the suspension is technical, not political.”
The official went on to say that “many Syrians are coming to Lebanon for treatment and claiming to be displaced persons, but it is not true. This is causing chaos, and the HRC needs time to reorganize its assistance.”
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said that more than 26,900 Syrians are registered refugees in Lebanon, but activists say the actual number of displaced is much higher, AFP noted.
Scores of wounded Syrians, most of them arriving from neighboring areas such as Homs, have also sought medical treatment in the relative safety of north Lebanon.
Lebanon has opened its public hospitals to the refugees, including the wounded, providing free of charge medical care.
Activists in Lebanon expressed concern over the government's decision, particularly because of how it might affect the treatment of wounded Syrians in Lebanon.
“On Tuesday, a wounded man from Qusayr was refused treatment in the government hospital of Tripoli,” Mustafa Obeid, who coordinates treatment for wounded Syrians in the north Lebanese city, told AFP.
“He had to be taken to a private hospital, and his treatment funded entirely by a private donor,” Obeid added.
The Syrian Refugee Coordination Committee in Lebanon said in a statement that although assistance has only just been formally suspended, wounded patients started to be refused treatment several days ago.
“We hope the Lebanese government reverses its decision, which is contrary to the rights of the wounded,” said the statement.
On Tuesday, Lebanon began sending troops to the frontier with Syria, after deadly attacks in the region.
The cabinet decided on Monday evening to dispatch army reinforcements to the border area in the north, after a series of cross-border incidents in recent months.
Syrian troops and armed men had traded gunfire overnight in the border area and shells fell inside Lebanon, wounding civilians. Two days earlier, clashes and blasts killed two people in the area.