Despite human rights criticism, Lebanon resumes the return of Syrian refugees to their country

According to the National News Agency, a group of Syrian refugees began leaving Lebanon on Wednesday for Syria, as part of organized trips undertaken by Public Security in coordination with Damascus and criticized by human rights organizations.

In the Arsal region in eastern Lebanon, buses and minibuses, some of them with Lebanese and Syrian registration plates, have been gathering since the early hours of the morning before gradually heading towards Syrian territory. Refugees brought their belongings with them, including personal belongings, possessions and even poultry and animals, according to AFP.

Buses and vans gathered, some with Lebanese and Syrian registration plates

About 750 refugees are scheduled to leave from various areas, the General Security announced, through at least three border points, as part of the “voluntary and safe return of the displaced” plan, which the Lebanese authorities started in 2017 . groups, and announced this month to resume its implementation.

And the Syrian regime news agency, SANA, reported that “a group of displaced Syrians from refugee camps in Lebanon arrived through the Dabousiyah border crossing in the countryside of Homs (central) to return to their safe and liberated areas from terrorism. “

After the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Lebanon became a destination for hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled their territories as the fighting progressed. The Lebanese authorities currently estimate the presence of more than two million refugees on its territory, while the number of people registered with the United Nations is approximately 830,000.

According to the mass returns, according to Lebanese General Security data, more than 400,000 refugees have been returned to Syria, but humanitarian organizations believe that the number of returnees is much lower, and they speak of documenting cases of “forced” deportation.

“By diligently facilitating these returns, the Lebanese authorities are deliberately putting Syrian refugees at risk of suffering horrific abuse and persecution upon their return to Syria,” said Diana Samaan, acting deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. said a statement.

The Director General of Public Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, on Tuesday condemned the positions of humanitarian organizations, without naming them. He said: “Lebanon rejects the existing method of handling,” stressing that “we will not force any displaced persons to return.”

Since the Syrian regime’s army regained control of most of the country, some countries have applied pressure to deport refugees from their territories, under the pretext of reducing the intensity of the fighting. However, the fact that the fighting has stopped, according to human rights and international organizations, does not mean that the return of refugees has become safe in the face of dilapidated infrastructure, difficult economic conditions and sometimes security persecutions.

In Lebanon, the pressure on refugees has ranged from curfews, arrests, racism and deportation to raids and restrictions on residency deals, according to AFP.

For years, the Lebanese authorities have viewed the refugee file as a burden and consider their presence to have contributed to accelerating and worsening the ongoing economic collapse in the country since 2019.

On October 12, Lebanese President General Michel Aoun said that the process of returning the displaced Syrians to their country in groups “is an important issue for us.”

Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million refugees, 880,000 registered with the High Commissioner for Refugees and 400,000 workers.

According to UNHCR, Lebanon, with a total population of approximately 6.7 million, continues to host the largest number of refugees per capita and per square kilometer.

The Lebanese caretaker government last September set out a plan to get Syrian refugees back on track by specifying the names of the first group to leave the country for Syria, in light of Lebanese official insistence on the final stop in the case to achieve, and warnings from international human rights organizations against forced return.

International organizations have previously warned against the forced return of Syrian refugees, and in a report by Human Rights Watch, the suffering of the Syrian refugees who returned from Lebanon and Jordan between 2017 and 2021 faced serious human rights violations and persecution . Syrian regime and its militias.

It believes that any forced return to Syria amounts to “Lebanon’s breach of obligations not to practice refoulement – that is, to force people to return to countries where they face a clear risk of torture or other types of persecution face.”

The Syrian economy and infrastructure, according to a report issued by the organization, has been “destroyed as a result of more than ten years of conflict and sanctions.”

In a report for the Al-Hurra website dated October 13, the Minister of Displaced Persons in the caretaker government, Issam Sharaf El-Din, said that “the number of families who registered their names to return in the first convoy with the Ministry of the Displaced Persons amounted to 483 families, i.e. between 1,500 and 1,800 people. 235 cars as well.”

According to the legal coordinator of the Ministry of Displaced Persons in Arsal, lawyer Rana Ramadan, the refugees will return to “the towns and cities of the western Qalamoun, which are the cities of Yabroud and Qara, and the towns of Jarajir, Al-Mushrifa (Flaita), Ras Al-Ain, Ras Al-Maarra, Al-Sahl and Al-Sarkah. his own account,” she said in an interview with Al-Hurra website, that “the first convoy will be followed by several convoys, in implementation of the plan of the minister of displaced persons, which aims to return 15,000 refugees per month.”

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