More than 2,700 Syrian refugees deported from Lebanon in three months

More than 2,700 Syrian refugees deported from Lebanon in three months
Human rights advocates have raised alarm over the new policy that allows Lebanon to deport Syrian refugees without paperwork.
3 min read
27 August, 2019
More than a million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon [AFP]
More than 2,700 vulnerable refugees have been deported from Lebanon back to war-torn Syria in just three months, according to reports on Tuesday.

Recent measures introduced by Lebanon's Higher Defense Council and General Security mean the authorities can deport any Syrian refugee who entered the country without permission after 24 April.

Lebanese General Security told The Daily Star on Monday 2,731 Syrian refugees who had "entered surreptitiously" since 21 May.

The staggering number of recent deportations is a break from the previous policy under which Syrians in the country without legal paperwork were subject to arrest but were not generally deported.

The new policy matches the position of many Lebanese politicians that most of Syria is safe and that refugees should return.

Human rights groups have raised concerns over the deportations, citing the lack of a legal process.

Ghida Frangieh, an lawyer with NGO The Legal Agenda, said that the figures showed an average of 30 Syrians were being deported per day.

"The speed of the deportations is an additional proof that those deportations are illegal and do not respect due process," she told The Daily Star.

"Syria is not safe for everyone, yet Syrians are deported without any objective assessment of the risks they might face in Syria."

George Ghali, executive director of the local human rights group ALEF, said it was unclear whether Lebanese authorities had conducted "any kind of screening" before the deportations to discern whether the refugees were at risk of persecution in Syria. 

If Lebanon has deported Syrians who are proven to be at risk of persecution in their country, that could put Lebanon in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, he said.

A Lebanese NGO earlier this month said a number of Syrians refugees deported by Lebanese authorities had been "unlawfully delivered" to Syrian security services.

The Access Center for Human Rights said it had confirmed six cases of Syrians who had been deported from Lebanon in May and June. 

Two of the refugees alleged they were tortured after being handed over to the Syrian security services, who interrogated them over "their activities in Lebanon, political affiliations, previous activism in Syria and the reason they were residing abroad".

In all six of those cases, the Syrians had been living in Lebanon before 24 April and some had been registered with the UN refugee agency. 

Lebanon's security agency refuted the claims on Monday.

In response to the deportations, the UNHCR has told Syrians in Lebanon to keep documentation proving they had entered the country before 24 April on their person at all times.

Lebanon, a country of some 4 million people, hosts an estimated 1.5 to two million refugees who have fled the conflict that erupted in neighbouring Syria in 2011.

Lebanon's economic and other woes are routinely blamed on Syrian refugees by local politicians and the government has ratcheted up the pressure to send them back.

Keen not to encourage Syrians to settle permanently, authorities allow only informal camps for refugees.

A coalition of international NGOs earlier this month said the Lebanese army raided Syrian refugee settlements, partially destroyed more than 300 tents.

The raids came after similar demolitions earlier this year in the border village of Arsal.