Syrians in Lebanon go into hiding amid anti-refugee campaign

Syrians in Lebanon go into hiding amid anti-refugee campaign
Syrian refugees say that they have had to go into hiding or flee their residences in Lebanon as authorities step up a campaign to deport them.
3 min read
02 May, 2023
Syrian refugees have been subjected to increasing persecution in Lebanon [Getty]

Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been subjected to abuse and exploitation amid a fierce campaign against them by Lebanese security forces, with some going into hiding or fleeing their homes.

Last month, Lebanese security forces began a campaign to deport Syrian refugees to Syria which was widely condemned by rights groups.

Reuters reported "a senior humanitarian source" last month as saying that over 450 Syrians were arrested in more than 60 raids by the Lebanese army in April. More than 130 were deported.

The UN says that there are approximately 900,000 Syrian refugees living in Lebanon but Lebanese politicians give a higher estimate of over 2 million.

Syrian refugees can face arrest, torture, and even execution on returning to regime-held areas of Syria. Syrian men also face forced conscription into the regime's army where conditions are said to be terrible.

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The campaign by Lebanese authorities has affected women and children. A 26-year-old Syrian man, Anas Al-Musaytif, committed suicide on Friday after being threatened with deportation to regime-held areas.

A Syrian mother of seven who only gave her name as Umm Osamah told The New Arab’s Arabic sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that she had stopped all her children from going to work and even leaving the house to buy essential items.

"I am a mother of two girls and five young men, some of whom are wanted [by the Syrian regime] for conscription," she said. "Ever since the arrests started, we are living in fear and we don't know our fate."

The family come from Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, which has been ravaged by war and regime airstrikes.

"Our region is insecure, our house may have been destroyed, and our belongings are gone, so how can we go back? To what? Leaving aside that they will take my children to military service…. it's impossible for me to go back now, even if the situation gets worse in Lebanon. I won't let my children die."

Another Syrian refugee, Mustafa, who had been living with his family in Lebanon since 2013, said that he was prepared to die rather than go back to regime-held territory.

"Throw me into the sea but don't send me back – drowning is more honourable than a forced return to danger," he said.

Lebanese authorities have refused to renew residency papers for Syrians, demanding they obtain a sponsor or work permit. Most Syrians in the country now do not have the required papers for legal residency.

This has left Syrians open to exploitation by Lebanese landlords.

One refugee, N.Y, said that he and other Syrian workers had to flee with their families from Baalbek to Beirut after a Lebanese landlord threatened to kill them or report them to authorities unless they agreed to work for 40,000 Lebanese liras (US$0.50) a day.

“It’s not just me,” he told The New Arab’s sister site Al-Modon, “my brother in the town of Al-Qaa had to flee after being persecuted by the mayor of the town and I heard of many other cases in the Hermel area.”