(Photo credit: Politico)
The head of Lebanon’s General Directorate of Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, said on 25 October during a press conference in the capital Beirut, in reference to the issue of repatriation, that Lebanon is carrying out this process to ease the burden on its people and will in no way force refugees to return to Syria involuntarily, despite the accusations.
Ibrahim added that Lebanon will not give in to international pressure in this matter.
“We will continue with the plan to return them as it is drawn up to the letter, and we will not succumb to [external] pressures from organizations claiming humanitarian concern,” he said.
“The return will be voluntary and we will not force any displaced to return… This is a principle we have… We [only] seek to reduce the burden on Lebanon,” the head of General Security said.
Ibrahim added that there are 2,080,000 displaced Syrian refugees currently residing in Lebanon and that around 540,000 refugees have returned to Syria voluntarily since the initial launch of the repatriation process in 2017.
He also emphasized the fact that repatriation is a “national” issue, meaning not only will it ease some of Lebanon’s social and economic burdens but also return the people of Syria to “their history, culture, and land.”
The first wave of Syrian refugees, comprising around 1,200 people, is expected to return to their country starting on 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. This nullifies reports from earlier in the month that Damascus was not cooperating with the Lebanese state’s repatriation plans.
The source added that the western-led international community “does not agree” with this repatriation process and has so far “refused to help.” Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have also made unsupported claims that the repatriation process aims to force refugees back to Syria.
This disapproval reinforces the belief held by some people that western countries, most notably the US, wish to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in their country in order to maintain instability in Syria.
In November of last year, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdullah Bou Habib, said: “We are facing some difficulties from the West because they say that they do not want these refugees to return to Syria for reasons related to their position on the Syrian government.”