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Gas stations protest UNHCR measure.

Summary: Owners of gas stations in the northern region of Wadi Khaled blocked the main road to the area Monday to protest a UNHCR decision to relocate delivery points for its fuel assistance program elsewhere.

BEIRUT: Owners of gas stations in the northern region of Wadi Khaled blocked the main road to the area Monday to protest a UNHCR decision to relocate delivery points for its fuel assistance program elsewhere.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees delivers vouchers to Syrian refugees in the area, enabling them to purchase fuel for heating from local gas stations.

But recently, the agency and its partner in the fuel assistance program Medco, a Lebanese petroleum company that produces and redeems the winter fuel vouchers for refugees, moved delivery points to outside the region. Previously Medco had contracted local gas stations to serve as a delivery point for the assistance program.

Gas station owners were incensed by the move, and said they would not permit U.N. workers or its partner organizations to enter Wadi Khaled until the decision was reversed, arguing that the measure was unfair to them and to Syrian refugee families who must now travel some distance for fuel.

According to UNHCR spokesperson Dana Sleiman, the decision to move delivery points was prompted after the UNHCR learned that a number of forged fuel vouchers had been detected earlier this month by Medco.

"Medco -- in consultation with UNHCR -- immediately limited the distribution of fuel in exchange for vouchers to a smaller network of Medco-run stations where local managers are able to verify the vouchers on a case-by-case basis," Sleiman told The Daily Star.

"We are working fast to make sure that all refugees are able to redeem their vouchers at suppliers near them, while making sure that scarce resources are not compromised."

The fact that Medco does not run any gas stations in the remote Wadi Khaled region serves as a problem for refugees, who find it expensive to commute to access services. Sleiman said the agency was working with Medco to establish a distribution point in Wadi Khaled.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Dec 2, 2014
Words:365
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