BEIRUT — The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement Tuesday that it is not part of any negotiations or plans to return refugees from Lebanon to Syria en masse. The statement came after Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine announced yesterday that Lebanese officials are working on a plan to repatriate 15,000 Syrian refugees to Syria every month.
Here’s what we know:
• Charafeddine did not give details as to how the government expects to achieve such a large number of returns, but said that the ministry is forming committees with other concerned authorities to work on the goal.
• “UNHCR is currently not part of tripartite negotiations on returns or any kind of return planning in Lebanon,” a UNHCR spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the agency “continues to call on the government to respect the fundamental right of all refugees to a voluntary, safe and dignified return and the principle of non-refoulement.”
• “While most Syrian refugees hope to return to Syria, their decision-making is based on weighing a variety of factors,” the statement said. “Refugees tell UNHCR that they remain concerned about a combination of factors including: safety and security; housing; access to essential services and livelihoods … [and] until the factors inhibiting refugees’ return are addressed, it is crucial to ensure they continue to be safe and protected in Lebanon.”
• The statement called for donors to continue to support Lebanese suffering from the economic crisis as well as refugees.
• UNHCR has recorded some 69,400 “voluntary returns” of refugees to Syria since 2016. There are currently about 839,000 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, although the actual number in the country is unknown, as the Lebanese government asked UNHCR to stop registering refugees in 2015.
• Lebanese authorities have also, in some cases, deported refugees who entered the country via illegal crossings after April 2019, but in relatively small numbers. The Access Center for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization based between Lebanon and France and focused on the conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, recorded 59 cases of “arbitrary deportation” in 2021. While the majority of those had entered Lebanon illegally, the deportees included 18 who entered the country legally, most of whom were registered with UNHCR.
• Previous initiatives announced by Lebanese authorities for the return of the refugees, including in conjunction with Russian officials, have not led to mass returns.
BEIRUT — The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement Tuesday that it is not part of any negotiations or plans to return refugees from Lebanon to Syria en masse. The statement came after Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine announced yesterday that Lebanese officials are working on a plan to repatriate 15,000 Syrian refugees to Syria every month.Here’s what...