Refugees in Lebanon's Arsal 'forced to return to Syria'

Refugees in Lebanese border town of Arsal 'forced to return to Syria': HRW
2 min read
20 September, 2017
Syrian refugees have been pressured to leave the Lebanese border town of Arsal over poor security and living conditions, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
Syrian refugees in the Lebanese town of Arsal are forced to return to Syria [Anadolu]
Syrian refugees in the northeast Lebanese border town of Arsal are living extremely harsh conditions that many have been forced to return to war-torn Syria, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

Refugees who left the Lebanese town for Syria's Idlib said they felt pressured to do so by the situation in Arsal, including fear of arrest and lack of access to health care and education, they told the rights watch dog over the telephone.

Those living in the border town face restrictions on movement, legal residency and face random arrests during army raids, HRW said.

"Conditions in Arsal have gotten so bad that many refugees have decided to go back into a war zone," said Nadim Houry, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch.

"Lebanese authorities have a difficult job maintaining security in Arsal, but now that ISIS and al-Nusra have been pushed out, it is essential to improve services and protect civilians," he said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.

HRW urged authorities in Lebanon to restore services in the area and protect those living there.

Militants from IS and the Nusra Front had long been active in mountainous eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria.

Last month, the Lebanese army launched an offensive on jihadists, driving them out of the border area.

Authorities in Lebanon have also carried out sweeping security raids on refugee camps there.

In July, authorities arrested over 350 Syrians. At least four Syrian men died in custody amid speculations of torture.

Lebanon, a country of some four million people, hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, whose presence has caused tensions over limited resources.

The war ravaging neighbouring Syria since 2011 has overflowed into Lebanon, with jihadists claiming several deadly bombings and clashing with the army on multiple occasions.