Over a hundred Syrian refugees leave Lebanon in 'voluntary return'
According to a statement by the Lebanese authorities, the return of 137 Syrian refugees was organised in cooperation with the UN refugee agency from south Lebanon's Shebaa, highlighting that the refugees returned voluntarily to their homeland.
"General Security patrols accompanied the refugees who left through buses provided by the Syrian authorities from Shebaa through the Masnaa crossing reaching Jdeidet Yabous," the statement said.
Since April, more than 2,000 Syrians have headed home from Lebanon in such returns coordinated by the authorities in Beirut and Damascus, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Human rights groups have warned that Syrians returning to their homeland should do so voluntarily and with full knowledge of the risks.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, around 13,000 Syrians went home from Lebanon during the first six months of this year.
While many refugees have said that their return was voluntarily, others have been quoted as saying living conditions have become so bad that they had no choice but to leave.
Other reasons also include a new property law that will be enacted shortly, which looks to confiscate homes evacuated during the war.
Many are also sceptical of the "guarantee" that those returning will not be detained. Bashar al-Assad's regime is well-known for its brutal persecution of those who have, or believed to have, voiced opposition to the government.
Turkey announced on Sunday that 250,000 people had already returned to Syria and is set to create more safe zones to allow refugees who fled the civil war - around half of them to Turkey - to return home.
The announcement comes amid a Russian-led push for the return to refugees to areas of Syria now under regime control, although most Syrians would fear repercussions returning to these districts.
Last month, Russia presented the US with plans for the coordinated return of refugees to Syria, aiming to repatriate some 890,000 Syrians from Lebanon, despite alarm from refugees who fear detention and even death on arrival.
Agencies contributed to this story.