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Amnesty urges Lebanon to stop forced deportations of Syrian refugees

Lebanon has deported 2,500 Syrian refugees in the last three months [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 August, 2019

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Amnesty International has urged Lebanon to stop forcibly deporting Syrian refugees following reports that 2,500 Syrians had been forced to return home.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International urged Lebanon's government on Tuesday to end the forced deportation of Syrian refugees, where they face arrest, torture and death at the hands of security forces.

The advocacy group made the call after it had obtained an official communication that reportedly showed that Lebanon had forcibly returned 2,500 Syrian refugees over the past three months.

"We urge the Lebanese authorities to stop these deportations as a matter of urgency, and the Higher Defense Council to cancel its related decision," Amnesty International's Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf, said in a statement.

"We urge the Lebanese authorities to stop these deportations as a matter of urgency, and the Higher Defense Council to cancel its related decision."

The mass deportations follow recent measures introduced by Lebanon's Higher Defense Council and General Security allowing authorities to deport any Syrian refugee who entered the country without permission after 24 April.

The staggering number of recent deportations is a break from the previous policy under which Syrians in the country without legal paperwork were subject to arrest but were not generally deported.

Lebanese authorities have also demolished the homes of
Syrian refugees [Getty]

As of 31 July this year there were 926,717 Syrian refugees in Lebanon registered with UNHCR and 31,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In addition, the Lebanese government claims that around 550,000 live in Lebanon unregistered.

Lebanon, a country of some 4 million people, hosts an estimated 1.5 to 2 million refugees who have fled the conflict that erupted in neighbouring Syria in 2011.

Lebanon's economic and other woes are routinely blamed on Syrian refugees by local politicians and the government has ratcheted up the pressure to send them back.

Keen not to encourage Syrians to settle permanently, authorities allow only informal camps for refugees.

A coalition of international NGOs earlier this month said the Lebanese army raided Syrian refugee settlements, partially destroyed more than 300 tents.

"As long as independent monitoring bodies are not allowed access to Syria - including the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria – in order to assess the security situation for the safe return of refugees, there is no way of determining whether returnees would be at real risk of serious human rights violations once back in Syria," Maalouf said.

"In the meantime, while risks upon return cannot be determined, any attempts to forcibly return refugees is a clear violation of Lebanon’s non-refoulement obligations."

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