(Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images)
The leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in Lebanon, Gebran Bassil, said on 12 January that the influx of Syrian refugees represents an existential problem and that the international community should stop exerting pressure on Lebanon.
“We, in the FPM, have decided not to abandon anybody, neither the displaced nor the hosts, given that both are victims,” Bassil said during a refugee return conference organized by the FPM.
“The United Nations must back the displaced repatriation and alleviate the burdens assumed by the host communities,” he added.
Bassil suggested changing the law that governs Syrians’ admission and residence in Lebanon, as well as the rapid deportation of individuals who enter the country unauthorized.
Lebanon’s politicians have pushed for the return of Syrian refugees as the war in Syria appears to be at a tentative standstill, claiming that Syria is a secure nation.
However, government-held regions of Syria that are not currently engaged in hostilities have experienced a severe economic crisis due to economic sanctions that left its residents without access to gasoline and electricity, causing a widespread food shortage.
On 25 October, the head of Lebanon’s General Directorate of Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, said that Lebanon is accelerating the deportation process to ease the burden on its people and will in no way force refugees to return to Syria involuntarily, in reference to the issue of repatriation during a press conference in Beirut.
“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 2,080,000 displaced Syrian refugees currently reside in Lebanon, and around 540,000 refugees have returned to Syria voluntarily since the initial launch of the repatriation process in 2017.