Human rights group Amnesty International has called on the Lebanese authorities to stop its plan to return Syrian refugees to Syria.
“The Lebanese authorities are scaling up the so-called voluntary returns, a plan which has been in place for four years, when it is well established that Syrian refugees in Lebanon are not in a position to take a free and informed decision about their return,” Diana Semaan, Amnesty’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.
She warned that the Lebanese repatriation plan would put Syrian refugees “at risk of suffering from heinous abuse and persecution upon their return to Syria.”
Semaan stressed that Lebanon should respect its obligations under international law and must “halt its plans to return Syrian refugees en-masse.” She also said that “amid the country’s spiraling economic crisis, the international community must continue to support more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon to prevent a further rise in unsafe returns.”
Amnesty stressed that International law prohibits constructive refoulement, which occurs when states use indirect means to coerce individuals to return to a place where they would be at real risk of serious human rights violations.
“For the return of refugees to their country of origin to be truly voluntary, it must be based on their free and informed consent. However, the dire conditions in Lebanon raise doubts about the ability of Syrian refugees to provide truly free consent,” Amnesty added.
Amnesty has previously documented how Syrian refugees have faced torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention upon returning home. Those who left Syria at the beginning of the conflict are at grave risk of reprisals upon their return, due to their perceived political opinions or as a punishment for fleeing the country.
(Source: SOC’s media department)