BEIRUT — Caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine confirmed Wednesday that “Lebanon will follow the plan to return Syrians refugees to their country, regardless of the UNHCR’s position,” after the UN refugee agency said it was not part of any negotiation to repatriate refugees to their strife-stricken home country.
Here’s what we know:
• Charafeddine said that he would make an official visit to Syria later in July to discuss the repatriation topic with Syrian authorities, the state-run National News Agency reported.
• The caretaker minister’s comments come on the heels of UNHCR’s statement Tuesday that it was not part of any negotiations or plans for the en masse return of refugees from Lebanon to Syria. Charafeddine announced Monday that Lebanese officials are working on a plan to repatriate 15,000 Syrian refugees to Syria every month.
• Charafeddine added on Wednesday that the repatriation will be “safe and dignified,” pointing out that “shelters are to be established for the displaced within their villages in Syria.”
• Charafeddine also indicated that “the UNHCR did not agree to a number of items that were put forward, including the request to suspend aid payments,” adding that the UNHCR’s position is “political.”
• “UNHCR is currently not part of tripartite negotiations on returns or any kind of return planning in Lebanon,” an agency spokesperson said in yesterday’s statement, adding that the UN body “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.”
• Rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, declared that Syria is “unsafe for return,” detailing the abuses Syrians risk upon returning to their country in 2021 reports. The reports have corroborated that, while there has been a decline in military conflict, “arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and ill-treatment, involuntary or enforced disappearances, rape, and death” are still common in Syria.