Thousands of Syrian refugees to be repatriated from Lebanon next week
Earlier this month, outgoing President Michel Aoun announced the launching of the repatriation plan, despite an apparent lack of coordination with Damascus
By News Desk - October 21 2022

(Photo credit: AP)

Lebanon’s Minister of Displacement, Issam Sharafeddine, announced on 20 October that 6,000 Syrian refugees will be repatriated to their country by the middle of next week.

“On Wednesday, three convoys will depart from Lebanon to Syria … the number of returning refugees will be 6,000 people, and they will be divided into two groups,” Sharafeddine said in a statement.

Outgoing Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced on 12 October that the government would be launching the repatriation process this month, despite the fact that Lebanon has not yet received a response from Syrian authorities regarding the returning refugees.

Beirut’s request for the repatriations, which included the submission of the names of 1,600 refugees who plan to return to Syria, was sent over a month ago. This raised several questions about Aoun’s public statement concerning the Syrian refugees, considering Lebanon’s inability to complete this step without Syrian cooperation.

Over the weekend, Amnesty International urged the Lebanese government to cease the repatriation process, which it claimed would return refugees to Syria involuntarily. This came after recent comments made by Lebanon’s Social Affairs Minister, Hector Hajjar, who asserted that his country does not need an “international green light” to return refugees to Syria.

Hajjar has also clarified that Lebanon is not taking “the Syrians to their death, but rather … to their homes, culture, history, civilization and livelihood, so that they can live with dignity.” Those who have legal residency and wish to stay for employment are welcome, the minister added, as has always been the case.

Although Damascus has reportedly failed to respond to the Lebanese request, the Syrian government did announce in August that it was ready to welcome displaced Syrians living in Lebanon.

“Syria’s doors are open for the return of the refugees … the state is ready to provide them with everything they need, from transportation, to healthcare and education,” Syria’s Minister of Local Administration and Environment Hussein Makhlouf said on 15 August following a meeting with Sharafeddine.

Sharafeddine’s announcement comes as part of a plan to repatriate around one million Syrian refugees, as Lebanese officials have claimed that Beirut was no longer capable of hosting them without foreign assistance.

In June, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged the international community to help secure the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, warning that otherwise Lebanon would be forced to expel them.

These developments come amid a considerable increase in discriminatory sentiment and Lebanese xenophobia against the Syrian refugees, which became even more apparent after the recent torture and killing of a refugee by members of Lebanon’s State Security Service in early September.

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