Activists have warned that the increasing hostility towards the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the incitement of hatred against them by politicians loyal to Hezbollah and the Assad regime are to blame for the escalating attacks on Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“An attack which forced hundreds of Syrian refugees to leave Deir al-Ahmar, an informal camp in the Bekaa valley, last week is a clear example of the escalating hostility which is driving many refugees to leave Lebanon and return to Syria despite ongoing violations of international humanitarian law there,” Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
Amnesty also said that since July 2018, the Lebanese authorities have been arranging returns of refugees to Syria through a combination of restrictive government policies, dire humanitarian conditions and rampant discrimination.
The organization has researched how unlawful evictions, curfews, constant raids on refugee camps and mass arrests are making life unbearable for many refugees in Lebanon, forcing many to return to Syria despite the ongoing dangers.
“Life for many Syrian refugees in Lebanon is marked by fear, constant intimidation and feelings of hopelessness. Despite the Lebanese government’s claims that returns to Syria are voluntary, incidents like the attack on Deir al-Ahmar show that life is becoming intolerable for refugees, leaving many with no choice but to return to Syria,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.
“By failing to ensure refugees are protected from attacks, harassment or intimidation and imposing unfair and restrictive policies that make their lives more difficult, the Lebanese authorities are fuelling an environment that effectively coerces refugees to return to Syria, where they could be at risk of interrogation on arrival, torture, enforced disappearance and other violations and abuses,” said Lynn Maalouf.
This means that the Lebanese authorities are in breach of their obligation not to return refugees to a place where they would be at real risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations (the obligation of non-refoulement), as they are imposing on them conditions that effectively force them to leave Lebanon.
“The Lebanese government must urgently eliminate any coercive factors such as refugees’ inability to obtain official residency papers and other restrictions or stop returns of refugees to Syria altogether. For its part the international community must provide sufficient funding and resources, resettle refugees, and press the Lebanese authorities not to return refugees to Syria until it is clear that the situation there is safe and that the rights of returnees will be protected,” said Lynn Maalouf.
Meanwhile, the Head of the Syrian Coalition’s Department of the Refugee Affairs, Amal Sheikho, on Wednesday said that the promulgation of hate speech by some Lebanese officials, including most notably Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, is largely to blame for the crimes being committed against Syrian refugees in Lebanon. She stressed the need to put an end to the racist speech against refugees and to respect the International Law. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)