Middle East

Human rights organisations warn of Syrian refugees in Lebanon being returned ‘by force’

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations have warned against the forcible return of Syrian refugees from Lebanon. They pointed out that they have documented evidence of returning refugees being arrested and tortured by the Syrian authorities.

The warning followed a statement by Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, on Monday that his government will resort to the courts in order to send Syrian refugees back to their homeland if the international community fails to help.

“Eleven years since the start of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon no longer has the ability to bear this burden, especially under the current circumstances,” Mikati said during a conference called to discuss the 2022-2023 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. “I call on the international community to cooperate with Lebanon to return the displaced Syrians to their country, otherwise Lebanon will adopt an undesirable stance towards Western countries by working on removing Syrians from Lebanon by legal means.”

READ: Cash-strapped Lebanon threatens to expel Syrian refugees

Lebanon is mired in its worst-ever economic crisis that has left it unable to provide basic services to its citizens, including the provision of electricity and fuel. The conference aims to assist 1.5 million Lebanese citizens in need, 1.5 million displaced Syrians and more than 209,000 Palestinian refugees in the country. The Lebanese government appealed for $3.2 billion to deliver critical assistance to people in need and to support Lebanon’s public infrastructure, services and local economy.

Minister for Social Affairs Hector Hajjar made similar remarks last month. Lebanon, he insisted, is unable to host such a large number of Syrian refugees, despite its commitment to the legal principle of non-refoulement.

The UN confirmed during the conference that it had provided $9 billion in aid as part of the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan since 2015. However, the country’s successive crises have still plunged large segments of the population into extreme poverty.

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