Syrian refugee families at the refugee camp of Mohammara, Akkar province, northern Lebanon | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/Nabil Mounzer
Syrian refugee families at the refugee camp of Mohammara, Akkar province, northern Lebanon | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/Nabil Mounzer

According to aid group Amnesty International, Lebanese authorities forcibly deported almost 2,500 Syrian refugees back to Syria in the past three months. Lebanese officials have repeatedly said that Syrian refugees placed a massive burden on the country's ailing economy. Meanwhile, Turkey, which hosts four million refugees, has called for world coordination on the Syrian refugee crisis.

Lebanon has "forcibly deported" nearly 2,500 Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland since May, Amnesty International said Tuesday. The aid organization called on authorities to end the expulsions.

Amnesty cited data from Lebanon's General Security agency and the Lebanese government showing that some 2,447 Syrians had been expelled between mid-May and August 9, the rights group said in an online statement from August 27.

General Security on May 13 started implementing an order from Lebanon's Higher Defence Council to deport refugees who had entered the country illegally after April 2019, it said.

It was not immediately clear whether all those expelled had entered irregularly. "We urge the Lebanese authorities to stop these deportations as a matter of urgency," said Amnesty's Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf.

Any attempt to forcibly return refugees is "a clear violation" of Lebanon's non-refoulement obligations, Maalouf added. The Mediterranean country of around 4.5 million people says it hosts some 1.5 million Syrians, of which nearly a million are UN-registered refugees.

Turkey calls on international community

Meanwhile, Turkey has called for global coordination to solve the crisis of hundreds of thousands of Syrians turned into refugees due to the years-long war in their homeland.

"We need to coordinate with the international community to help solve the Syrian refugee crisis in a secure and safe way," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Beirut last Friday.

Turkey hosts four million refugees, the largest number staying in any single country in the world. More than 3.6 million of these came from neighboring Syria after the devastating conflict began there in 2011.

Cavusoglu urged the international community to be more sensitive when it comes to the basic needs of those Syrians who return to Syria. The minister also offered to set up a joint forum with Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq - other neighbors of Syria.

At the same press conference, Lebanese Foreign Minister Jubran Bassil said there should be close coordination between Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to find "the right solution" for the return of Syrians refugees to their country.

“Lebanon is always committed to the dignified return of the Syrian refugees to their country," Bassil said.

Lebanese government heightens pressure on Syrian refugees

Lebanese politicians routinely blame the country's economic and other woes on Syrian refugees. In recent months, the government ratcheted up the pressure to send them back.

Rights groups have decried measures to make the lives of refugees increasingly difficult.

This month, NGOs called for an end to the demolition of several hundred refugee shelters by troops in Lebanon, saying it’s traumatic for refugees who have fled war. Since June, more than 3,600 Syrian families lost their shelter. Homes made of anything other than timber and plastic sheeting are not allowed.

In early July, Lebanese security forces destroyed 20 refugee homes for breaking building regulations refugees have to abide by following the expiration of an ultimatum.

The labor ministry, meanwhile, started clamping down on businesses employing foreigners without valid work permits earlier this month, a move activists say largely targets Syrians. In previous years, the ministry had virtually ignored guidelines governing the employment of Syrians living in Lebanon.

With material from AFP, dpa


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