At least 3 Syrian activists and defectors 'at risk of deportation' from Lebanon

At least 3 Syrian activists and defectors 'at risk of deportation' from Lebanon
The activists and defectors risk arbitrary arrest and possibly torture if they are returned to Syria.
3 min read
01 June, 2023
Rights groups consistently warn that Syria is not yet safe for returns, citing authorities' consistent violation of returnees' rights. [Getty]

At least three Syrian activists and defectors are currently being held by Lebanese authorities and are at risk of deportation to Syria, where rights groups fear they may be subject to arbitrary arrest and possibly torture.

The three Syrians, whose names are being withheld for their safety, are wanted by the Syrian regime, Fadel Abdul Ghany, the founder of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), told The New Arab.

Abdul Ghany added that the three activists and defectors are among "dozens" of Syrian refugees arrested by Lebanese authorities in recent days.

One of those held was initially arrested while attempting to renew his residency papers before being transferred to a detention centre in Beirut and threatened with deportation.

At least two of those held are registered refugees with UNHCR.

The Syrian activists have been convicted of terrorism in Syrian courts, Tarek Shindeb, a lawyer familiar with their cases, told TNA.

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Many activists were charged with "terrorism" during the Syrian uprising for engaging in political dissent and disappeared into detention centres, where they face "inhuman conditions."

Shindeb said there were "eight more activists and defectors" currently under threat of deportation, but TNA was not able to independently verify this claim.

The arrests come as Lebanese authorities carry out a security campaign against Syrians living in Lebanon, detaining and deporting Syrians who do not have valid residency papers.

Security forces began conducting raids and setting up checkpoints targeting Syrians across Lebanon in April, deporting at least 1,000 thus far.

SNHR has said that those deported were not allowed to bring any personal belongings with them and were subject to "beatings" and "extortion" by Lebanese and Syrian security forces, respectively.

Lebanon hosts around 1.8 million Syrians, the vast majority of them fleeing the Syrian civil war which broke out after the regime cracked down on protesters during the 2011 uprising in the country.

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Anti-Syrian sentiment has risen considerably since Lebanon's economic crisis in the fall of 2019, with the majority of the country's political establishment calling for Syrians to return to their country.

Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs called on UNHCR to reverse its decision to provide Syrians with assistance in US dollars last Friday, saying aid should only be given to Syrians if they go back to Syria.

Amnesty International has urged the Lebanese government to stop the deportations, warning that Syria is still not safe for returns.

Rights groups have documented arbitrary arrests and torture of Syrian refugees who return to Syria, even among those who were not wanted by the Syrian government.

They have also said Lebanon is in violation of its international legal obligations by deporting Syrians to a country where conditions are not yet safe for repatriation.

A spokesperson for Lebanon's General Security Directorate did not respond to TNA's request for comment at the time of publishing.