angelina jolie
UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie meets Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley while on a humanitarian mission to Lebanon Reuters

Lebanon is facing economic and political collapse as it reels from the wave of Syrians seeking refuge within the country, a Lebanese lawmaker said.

Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said the total number of Syrians registered as refugees is expected to reach 1.5 million by the end of 2014, more than a third of Lebanon's entire population.

The refugee crisis has cost Lebanon around $7.5bn between 2012 and 2014, Dergas said, weighing heavily on the country's brittle economy.

The vast inpouring of refugees has strained relations in host communities, driving up rents and lowering wages as Syrians search for work.

"Unemployment doubled, especially among unspecialised or unskilled labour in those mostly poor areas," Dergas said, warning that the refugee crisis was unsustainable. It "threatens to take us to an economic, political and even security collapse."

The Syrian war has taken on an increasingly sectarian dimension and thus exacerbated sectarian tensions in its much smaller neighbour.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad belongs to the Alawi sect, an off shoot of Shia Islam. Syrian rebel groups are predominately Sunni, while foreign jihadis seeking to overthrow Assad are also largely Sunni. What's more, the vast majority of refugees pouring over Syria's borders are also Sunni.

The violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria has been repeated in Lebanese cities, with clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government erupting from Tripoli to the capital Beirut.

Moreover, the Lebanese militant Shia group Hezbollah, has fought in Syria on the government side, heightening domestic sectarian tensions further.

Lebanon currently hosts around 1.1 million Syrian refugees, more than a quarter of its total population. With the Syrian war at a bloody stalemate with no end in sight, the number of Syrians fleeing to Lebanon will increase.

"We know that we are working towards having more than 1.5 million registered refugees by the end of 2014, which amounts to more than a third of the local population," Derbas said. "We have our limits and we have gone beyond those limits now," he added.

Lebanon has taken in more Syrian refugees than any other country and the United Nations estimated that Lebanon will need $1.6bn this year to cope with the humanitarian disaster. Only 23% of that amount has been raised so far, according to the UN.

The UN's refugee commission said that while the numbers of Syrians fleeing had slowed in recent months, it predicts 3.6 million will register as refugees in the region by the end of 2014.