May 31, 2023

Campaigns to deport Syrians from Lebanon topped the headlines related to refugees in the country neighboring Syria, and while human rights reports spoke of dozens of victims targeted by these practices during the past days, the reactions of politicians varied, at a time when there was an atmosphere of fears and warnings about “what is worse.”

Al-Hurra website had spoken to several Syrian families targeted by deportation campaigns, including the family of Raghad, who is seven years old, and Ismail, who was deprived of his two children, Suha and Warda, in addition to his wife, Fatima.

According to the Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR), the Lebanese authorities have so far arrested 64 Syrian refugees from different regions in Lebanon, on April 10 and 11, including patients and children.

The human rights center said that during the security raids, they were subjected to several serious violations, most notably arbitrary arrest, forced deportation, and ill-treatment under inhumane conditions.

The “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” stated in a report, on Monday, that the raids launched by the Lebanese authorities against Syrians have increased since the beginning of this April.

The campaigns included different areas of the capital, Beirut, Bourj Hammoud and Haret Sakher, all the way to Wadi Khaled and Hermel, passing through the Chouf and Kesrouan districts in Mount Lebanon.

The Observatory spoke with one of the Syrians who was deported and handed over to the Fourth Division of the regime forces, before he returned to Lebanon through “smuggling” routes after paying an amount of money.

His report stated that “the Lebanese security forces arrested many Syrian refugees, and after their arrest they took them to a detention center for a whole night, and the next day they were handed over to the Fourth Division of the regime forces near Talkalakh on the Syrian-Lebanese border.”

There, “they were subjected to very brutal torture using sticks and electricity, as well as psychological insults and insults, before they were sold to smugglers and paid $300 for each person, and many remained in the grip of the Fourth Division’s members because they did not have the required amount.”

What does the commission say?

Although many politicians in Lebanon and the government had announced months ago a plan to return Syrians to their country, the current campaign comes in a different context, related to their forced deportation, which exposes them to the risk of arrest by the Syrian regime forces.

Al-Hurra website obtained a comment from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regarding deportation campaigns, which are taking an upward trend, at a time when human rights organizations warn of an increase in the coming days.

“The UNHCR spoke to Syrian refugees, who confirmed the increase in campaigns taking place in Syrian communities in the Mount Lebanon region and northern Lebanon,” the commentary said.

So far in April, UNHCR is aware of at least thirteen confirmed campaigns.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has also received reports of the detention and subsequent deportation of Syrians, including refugees known and registered with it.

The comment added, “The UNHCR continues to call for respect for the principles of international law and to ensure the protection of refugees in Lebanon from refoulement.”

It also takes “reports of deportation of Syrian refugees seriously, and follows up with relevant stakeholders.”

Legal or illegal?

Meanwhile, the Minister of the Displaced in the caretaker government, Issam Sharaf al-Din, commented on the campaigns that were documented by saying that they are “very limited to about seventy people, who are involved in thefts, including electric wires and the bell of St. Anthony’s Church in Brummana, and it also appears that they entered Lebanon.” illegally.”

In an interview with Al-Hurra website on Monday, Sharaf Al-Din also pointed out the restrictions on Syrian refugees in Arsal, by a decision of the Governor of Baalbek-Hermel, Bashir Khader, by closing clinics and others. As for the minister’s deportation plan, which includes 15,000 refugees per month, it is, he says, “frozen by a political decision.”

On the other hand, Amnesty International called on the Lebanese authorities, on Tuesday, to stop the illegal and forced deportations of Syrian refugees from its lands to Syria, immediately.

According to a report by the human rights organization, the people deported to Syria face the risk of being subjected to “torture or persecution” by the Syrian regime after their return.

“Refugees living in Lebanon must be protected from arbitrary raids and unlawful deportation to a place where their lives are in danger,” said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“While there is no excuse for Lebanon’s breach of its legal obligations, the international community must increase its assistance, particularly resettlement programs and alternative pathways, to help Lebanon cope with the estimated 1.5 million refugees in the country,” she added.

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