Lebanese minister urges for Syrian refugee deportations despite donor refusals
The Lebanese minister of the displaced has said Syrian refugees must be sent from Lebanon back to their country of origin, despite a lack of international financial support for Beirut's plan to deport them.
Issam Charafeddine told Radio Liban Libre on Friday that the hosting of as many as 1.5 million Syrian refugees "constitutes a huge burden on the Lebanese economy", so far costing Lebanon US$33 billion.
"The direct cost incurred by Lebanon covers wheat, electricity, water, educational policy, infrastructure and environmental pollution," he said.
The minister said that the UN Refugee Agency told Beirut that donor countries had refused to give financial support to the deportation plan.
"They also did not approve the formation of a tripartite committee of Syria, Lebanon and the UN Refugee Agency to facilitate the process," he added.
Lebanon’s plan to return 15,000 Syrian refugees per month to Syria has been met with international condemnation, with the EU, UNHCR and human rights groups saying Syria remains too dangerous a place for refugees to return to - in part because of the ruthlessness of Assad regime security forces.
More than five million Syrians fled their country when the war began 11 years ago, with most of them now living in neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Calls for the return of Syrian refugees have increased in Lebanon since its economic downturn began in late 2019, leaving three-quarters of Lebanese living in poverty. For Syrians, living conditions have become much worse.
Syrians who have previously returned to their country have faced arrest, torture, and even execution at the hands of security forces, according to reports from rights groups.
Lebanon put forward its deportation plan in July. The Syrian regime said earlier this week that it was "ready" to repatriate the refugees.