Lebanon FM 'endangering lives of anti-Assad Syria refugees'

Lebanon FM 'endangering lives of anti-Assad Syria refugees'

3 min read
17 June, 2018
Lebanon is ignoring the safety of thousands of Syrian refugees in the country who are opponents of the Assad regime, as it increases pressure from them to return.
Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees [Getty]

Lebanon is ignoring the safety of thousands of Syrian refugees in the country who are opponents of the Assad regime, as it increases pressure from them to return, local news website Zaman al-Wasl has reported.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil this week classified Syrian refugee into three categories during a meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, according to the pro-opposition outlet.

"The first [category] is displaced people to go to Syria regularly and benefit from their refugee identity certificates that provide them with aid they are not supposed to receive," the report quoted Bassil as saying.

"The second category is Syrian who want to return if all the conditions of their return are secured such as their homes and land and with the approval of Syrian authorities,"

"The third one is Syrians who want to return but have lost their homes," he added.

The outlet accused Bassil of failing to acknowledge that many Syrians refugees in Lebanon are opponents of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and who be in danger if they returned to their homeland because of their political views.

"It's as if he thinks the refugees have come to Lebanon to enjoy the sun and mountains and not have come fleeing the killings and Assad death militias," the report quoted a Syrian activist as saying.

In a report published last year, Amnesty International said at least 75,000 people arrested by regime security forces since the beginning of the conflict have gone missing.

The rights group said that thousands of people have died in custody in Syria's brutal detention centres with tens of thousands more experiencing shocking torture.

Bassil threatened on Thursday to increase pressure on the UN refugee agency if it failed to change its policies, which he says discourage Syrian refugees from returning to their country.

He met with the agency in Geneva, days after the Lebanese official ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for UNHCR staff.

Bassil said he is ready to lift the measures "if I see tangible steps," but is also ready to take further action if things continue as they are.

"We want a solution for a crisis that Lebanon cannot tolerate anymore. Its economy is on the verge of collapse," Bassil told the local Al-Jadeed TV.

Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, or about a quarter of the country's population, putting a huge strain on the economy.

Sentiments against refugees have been increasing amid political divisions and an economic crunch, especially after groups calling for their return made major gains in last month's parliamentary elections.