May 5, 2023

A few days ago, media, municipal, political and partisan campaigns calling for the deportation of Syrians escalated, reaching the level of calls for demonstrations. Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi issued a letter banning two demonstrations, the first in support of Syrian refugees and the second against it, for fear of security problems.

The case interacted with the deportation of about 50 Syrians by the security authorities who entered Lebanon surreptitiously through the irregular land crossings, and they were placed outside the borders, and some municipalities called on Syrian residents to register their names with them, and demanded them to bring all identification papers to ensure that they comply with the conditions of residency, and everyone who fails to “be considered a non-resident.” legal and will be deported.”

In practice, the actions of the Lebanese authorities are linked to the decision of the Supreme Defense Council issued on April 15, 2019, to deport the Syrians who entered surreptitiously, while human rights organizations believe that the decision does not take into account the conditions for safe return, and exposes the Syrians to the risk of torture and persecution.

Government actions

In the wake of the developments, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati held a government meeting last Wednesday, which included security officials, and took measures that are not the first of their kind, the most prominent of which were:

Request the UNHCR to provide the Ministry of Interior with information on the displaced Syrians.

Dropping the refugee status for those leaving the Lebanese territory.

Asking the security services to prosecute violators and prevent the entry of Syrians through illegal means.

Asking foreign countries to bear the burdens of the Syrian exodus.

Requesting the Ministry of Labor and Public Security to strictly monitor Syrian labor.

Requesting the Minister of Justice to discuss the possibility of handing over the arrested and convicted persons to the Syrian state, taking into account the related agreements.

Last summer, the government announced a plan to return the Syrians to their country, which was handed over to the General Security. Few convoys of returnees were carried out, but it failed because the Syrians did not accept it.

The government bases its plans on the fact that Lebanon did not sign the International Refugee Convention in 1951. Therefore, Lebanon grants the Syrians the status of “displaced persons” and not “refugees,” which deprives them of their rights such as protection from deportation.

Thousands of Syrians enter Lebanon through dozens of irregular land crossings that extend along the borders in geographically overlapping villages, and brokers and smugglers’ networks between the two countries are active on them.

Commission position

Lebanon was one of the first Arab countries in which the Syrians took refuge, after the outbreak of the revolution against the Assad regime in 2011, and it has the highest rate of Syrian refugees in the world compared to its area and population (about 6 million people). The Lebanese General Security recently estimated the number of Syrians at two million and 80 thousand refugees, most of them He does not have regular papers, and there are about 3,100 random camps, most of which are in the Bekaa Valley and the North.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Lisa Abu Khaled, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says that discussions took place with the Lebanese side last Thursday about mechanisms for exchanging information about Syrian refugees, expressing her deep concern about Reports of their forcible deportation.

In early April, a dispute arose between the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs and the High Commissioner over the financial value of the aid that it intends to increase for Syrian refugees, and many considered that its value exceeds the salary of a Lebanese public employee, after the exchange rate of the dollar touched 100,000 pounds, noting that the Commission had written off thousands of families. of its aid recently due to lack of funding.

Here, the UN spokesperson explains that the amount provided by the UNHCR for the most vulnerable refugees is two million and 500 thousand pounds for the family (about 26 dollars), and the World Food Program provides one million and 100 thousand pounds (11.5 dollars) per person (with a maximum of 5 family members), i.e. “the maximum aid for the family.” Syrian pounds per month (about 83 dollars).

Lisa said that the aid is provided in pounds, not in dollars as reported by the media, and “discussions are taking place about the dollarization of aid in the future,” noting that the Commission notes an increase in the number of security raids, and until this month “it learned about 14 raids in Mount Lebanon and” it receives reports about Syrians detained with the aim of deporting them. Some of them are registered with UNHCR.

From the beginning of 2023 until the end of last March, “the UNHCR has verified the return of 3,261 refugees to Syria,” and “since 2016, it has verified about 83,500 return cases, and it does not reflect the full number of returnees, and it may be much higher.”

According to the spokeswoman, the majority of Syrian refugees tell the UNHCR that they want to return, but their intentions are linked to their situation, and they are concerned about safety, security, housing, and securing basic services and livelihoods, explaining that “the United Nations is working with all concerned, from the Syrian government and host countries, to address the obstacles to their return in numbers big”.

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