Lebanese Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merehbi said that violations by the Assad regime have slowed the return of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon.
Merehbi on Tuesday told The Associated Press that 20 refugees have been killed since refugee started returning from Lebanon in June. “What we are sure about is nearly 20 (got killed) and there are three cases that I personally documented and I spoke with their relatives and received their photos,” Merhebi said.
Some refugees who have gone back to Syria from Lebanon have been killed, detained or forced to join the military, abuses that deter others from returning, the Lebanese minister added.
Monitoring groups said that 700 returnees have been detained since June. Of those, 370 remain in custody.
Rights groups and the UN fear refugees would face persecution returning to government-controlled areas in the absence of a comprehensive political agreement.
Merehbi said that at the height of the war the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon reached 1.2 million, or about a quarter of Lebanon’s population. He said the number now is about 940,000, after some returned to Syria or were resettled in other countries.
Last week, the Syrian Coalition held a teleconference with a number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to assess their situation, especially the voluntary return to Syria.
The Coalition stressed that the Assad regime “will not change its criminal behavior,” warning that attempts to return Syrian refugees to regime-held areas is tantamount to “sending them to their deaths.”
“Merehbi’s statements have lent weight to our fears for the safety of returning refugees in view of our experience with the regime and the Iranian terrorist militias.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)