Lebanon summarily deported at least 16 Syrians, some of them registered refugees, on April 26, 2019 after they arrived at the Beirut airport, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said earlier on Friday.
At least 5 of the 16 had registered with the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), and at least 13 expressed their fears of torture or persecution if returned to Syria, the rights watchdog added. “Despite this, the Syrians were not given a meaningful chance to seek asylum or challenge their removal, and were forced to sign ‘voluntary repatriation’ forms.”
“Lebanese authorities shouldn’t deport anyone to Syria without first allowing them a fair opportunity to argue their case for protection and ensuring that they don’t face a real risk of persecution, torture, or other serious harm,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“As a party to the Convention Against Torture, Lebanon is obligated not to return or extradite anyone if there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture,” HRW added.
“Lebanon is also bound by the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement not to return refugees to places where they would be persecuted or to expose anyone to a real risk of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or threat to their life.”
Nongovernmental organizations working with refugees in Lebanon estimate that 30 Syrians have been deported from Hariri International Airport in Beirut this year by the General Security Directorate, the agency that oversees the entry and exit of foreigners.
Since 2017, leading politicians in Lebanon aligned with the Hezbollah militia have increasingly called for the return of refugees to Syria, and the authorities have put pressure on UNHCR to organize returns despite the ongoing conflict in Syria. UNHCR has said that it cannot promote or facilitate returns of refugees before it has determined that conditions in Syria are safe. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)