(Photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)
The first wave of Syrian refugees, comprising around 1,200 people, are expected to return to their country starting Wednesday 26 October.
A source told The Cradle that the Syrian government has been very cooperative in the process of repatriating over 6,000 Syrian refugees, but that it “will take a lot of time and effort,” before it is completed.
Until now, the Syrian government has approved the requests of 483 out of 1,200 Syrian refugees, while some requests have been denied due to criminal offenses in Syria.
The source added that the international committee, spearheaded by Western countries, “does not agree” with the process and has so far “refused to help.”
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.
Over the weekend, Amnesty International urged the Lebanese government to cease the repatriation process, claiming it 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.
Lebanon is the country with the largest refugee population per capita in the world. There are currently 1.5 million registered Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, with unofficial numbers being potentially higher, while the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimates the Palestinian refugee population to be anywhere near 479,000 people.