Lebanon imposes controls on Syrians to reduce friction

The Lebanese government imposed new entry controls on Syrians on Tuesday in a bid to reduce friction between the host population and the 600,000 who have already crossed.

Ministers said they had no intention of closing the border to refugees fleeing the devastating 28-month conflict in their homeland.

But they said that in future they would recognise as refugees only those fleeing parts of Syria that have been wracked by violence.

"There is an influx that is not motivated by humanitarian needs," Economy Minister Nicolas Nahas told AFP.

"The security forces are therefore going to start checking whether those arriving at the border come from a war-ravaged area before regarding them as refugees. Those who do not will be granted entry as ordinary visitors."

Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Fawr said that from next week special teams would start shutting down the unlicensed Syrian-run businesses that have mushroomed, particularly in the eastern Bekaa valley region near the border.

"A security service team recorded 377 illegal businesses in just six villages in the Bekaa," he said.

"Any refugee fleeing the killings, hunger and destruction is welcome but they must respect the laws of Lebanon."

"They have the right to work to feed themselves on building sites or other sectors but not in trade or in businesses that require a permit."

Many Syrian refugees are forced to sleep rough on the streets because they can not afford to rent somewhere to live.

But the presence of 600,000 alongside a population of just four million has sparked mounting friction.

A recent opinion poll found that 54 percent of respondents believed Lebanon should close its doors to the refugees. A full 82 percent said that the refugees were stealing jobs from Lebanese.