Anti-Syrian racism on the rise in Lebanon as authorities deport refugees

Anti-Syrian racism on the rise in Lebanon as authorities deport refugees
"They are not our problem, the [bad] situation we are in is enough [expletive],” one Twitter user wrote.
3 min read
27 April, 2023
About 50 Syrians were deported from Lebanon last week. [Getty]

A wave of anti-Syrian sentiment erupted in Lebanon following revelations that the Lebanese army has deported around fifty Syrians back to their country last month as part of an apparent security crackdown.

At least one of the deported Syrians, a defected army officer, has been arrested by Syrian regime authorities upon return where his relatives fear he is being tortured.

The Lebanese army reportedly conducted raids across Lebanon and set up checkpoints to check residency status of Syrians.

A statement by Amnesty International, which urged Lebanese authorities to refrain from deporting Syrians for fear that they will be tortured by the Syrian regime, prompted backlash from Lebanese politicians and residents alike.

"They are not our problem, the [bad] situation we are in is enough [expletive]," one Twitter user, Ghena Salem, wrote in response to an Amnesty statement.

George Atallah, an MP from the Free Patriotic Movement, said that Amnesty International should "mind its own business" and "not interfere in the sovereign decisions of Lebanon."

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The National Committee to Liberate from Syrian Occupation called for a demonstration in front of the UNHCR offices in Beirut on Wednesday morning in protest of the presence of Syrians in the country.

The protest was canceled by the country's interior ministry, claiming fears of a "security incident" occurring.

Lebanon hosts around two million Syrians many of whom fled the Syrian civil war which began in 2011.

As the country's economic crisis has worsened and the living standards of most Lebanese have plunged since 2019, anti-Syrian sentiment has been on the rise.

Various plans to return Syrian refugees have been floated by Lebanese authorities, most recently by former President Michel Aoun in the summer of 2021.

Authorities have previously allowed Syrians to sign up for these voluntary return programmes.

Lebanon's Ministry of Interior did not respond to The New Arab's request for a comment on last week's deportations.

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The forced deportations by Lebanese authorities are a new development which has human rights monitors have condemned.

"We believe it's an issue of human rights and violation of the legally binding commitments that Lebanon previously made in the Universal declaration of human rights and Convention Against Torture," Fadel Fakih, executive director of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, said to TNA.

Syrians residing in Lebanon have told TNA that the wave of deportations have made them fearful that they could be sent back to Lebanon, where they fear persecution at the hands of Syrian authorities.

"There is no security in Syria. If we are sent back there, who knows what will happen to us," Hussein, a Syrian who sought refuge in Lebanon from the northern city of Jinderis, told TNA.

The threat of deportations has already been used as a cudgel against Syrians in different parts of the country.

The municipality of Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon announced Tuesday that Syrians must register with the municipality or else risk "being immediately deported with their families to Syria."

Syrians regularly face torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearance upon return to Syria.

Human rights bodies have consistently said that Syria is not yet safe for returns.