Syrian refugees to be 'locked in their homes' during Lebanon election

Syrian refugees to be 'locked in their homes' during Lebanon election
Elections in Lebanon will take place this weekend. While Lebanese are being encouraged to go out and vote, Syrians are being ordered to remain in their homes for two days.
3 min read
13 May, 2022
Anti-Racism Movement, a Lebanese NGO, recorded at least seven curfew orders by municipalities for 'foreign' workers [Getty]

Syrian refugees in parts of Lebanon will be 'locked in their homes' this weekend as the Lebanese go to the polls in a crunch general election.

A document, confirmed by NGO Anti-Racist Movement, from the head of Nabatieh governorate to local municipalities orders Syrian refugees to remain in their homes from 6pm Saturday to 8am Monday.

The curfew coincides with Lebanon's general election which takes place on Sunday.

Activists shared a similar order for the West Bekaa region and other parts of Lebanon over the same period.

The New Arab has asked the Lebanese embassy in London for clarification on the orders but has yet to receive a response.

Nadia Hardman, Refugee and Migrant Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that these orders correspond with other measures by the state targeting refugees.

"If true, these orders are in keeping with the authorities' practice of imposing arbitrary, discriminatory, and restrictive measures on Syrian refugees - designed to make their lives so difficult they consider returning to Syria," Hardman told The New Arab.

"There is no reason or legitimate basis to impose curfews at a time of national public participation."

The order has been issued in more remote areas of Lebanon where locals and security forces are able to identify Syrians, Farah Baba, advocacy and communications officer at Lebanon-based Anti-Racism Movement, said.

"In these towns, everyone knows everyone, and due to high rates of xenophobia any Syrians who go out on the street during this time will likely be assaulted by police or racist locals," Baba told The New Arab.

"There will be a heavy security presence during these days with Amal and Hezbollah joining forces with municipal police to ensure there are no Syrians on the streets."

Many of these areas are strongholds of Hezbollah and Amal, with anti-Syrian measures - such as curfews - appealing to anti-refugee sentiments in the area, Baba said.

Hezbollah has been a key ally of Bashar Al-Assad's regime in the war and Syrians in Lebanon are perceived as being pro-opposition.

Curfews such as these might also encourage more constituents in Amal and Hezbollah-dominated towns to go out and vote.

Checkpoints and patrols will likely be established in these towns during the election day, with security forces and Hezbollah militias on the lookout for anyone who might be identified as Syrians.

Local labour laws have largely restricted Syrians to the low-paid construction sector meaning anyone wearing overalls or stained clothing will be suspect.

"The curfew will be heavily enforced and Syrians will not go out fearing being assaulted or detained, due to not having the necessary residency paperwork," Baba added.

Anti-Racism Movement recorded at least seven curfew orders by municipalities for 'foreign' workers. These 'racist' circulars did not mention specifically mention Syrians, perhaps to avoid backlash, said Baba.

Human Rights Watch has documented that 330 municipalities in Lebanon have issued curfew orders against Syrian residents between January 2020 and June 2021. 

"The reasons given - such due to Covid-19 restrictions - have been very absurd, and the fact that the measures targeted only Syrians show that the curfews are racist," said Baba.

"The fact that the most recent order refers to Syrians as 'immigrants' and not 'refugees' plays into fears among some Lebanese that Syrians are out to 'take your jobs' and not fleeing persecution."

There are over 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, most fleeing brutal regime and Russian assaults on opposition towns in Syria.

NGOs have reported many incidents of discrimination against Syrians, including withholding pay, assaults, and other abuses.

Syrians who have returned home due to the suffocating conditions in Lebanon have been disappeared by regime security forces. Syria is not deemed a safe destination for refugees to return to by the UN and NGOs.

At least 200,000 Syrian children in Lebanon have never attended school due to paperwork issues, poverty, and bureaucracy. 

Syrians and Palestinian refugees are some of the hardest hit in Lebanon by the country's economic crisis.