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REFUGEES

Social affairs minister: Ministerial committee agrees on refugee return plan, just not in its current form

Social affairs minister: Ministerial committee agrees on refugee return plan, just not in its current form

A line of cars at the Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria. (Credit: NNA)

BEIRUT — Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar published a statement Thursday reiterating that the ministerial committee in charge of a plan to repatriate 15,000 Syrians per month still supports the idea, but that not all members agree to the plan as it currently stands. Hajjar noted that the committee supports “any step that falls into the category of refugee return.”

Here’s what we know:

    • Caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine visited Syria earlier this week to discuss the issue of refugee returns with his Syrian counterpart. Charafeddine told L’Orient Today last week that he felt caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati was uninterested in implementing the returns plan. He attributed the disinterest to pushback by donor countries and international organizations that have said Syria is not safe for large-scale returns.

    • Following a ministerial meeting headed by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday, Hajjar said in his statement that there has been a dispute over which ministry is in charge of the refugee repatriation plan — the Ministry of Social Affairs or the Ministry of the Displaced — arguing that “the file is not linked to a single ministry.”

    • Hajjar added that there was a consensus at Thursday’s meeting that the Ministry of Social Affairs is the one in charge of following up on this file in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noting that “a number of ministries are also linked to the file of the displaced” and that it is “partly related to international institutions, states, donors, and the UNHCR.”

    • Addressing international organizations’ refusal to take part in the repatriation plan, Hajjar said that the organizations “can consider what they want, but the dialogue should not be cut off.”

    • UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has told L’Orient Today that they “continue to call for voluntary and safe return,” adding that they “are in contact with the Lebanese authorities to safeguard the interests of the refugees.”


Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine visited Syria earlier this week. A previous version stated that the planned visit had not yet taken place. 


BEIRUT — Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar published a statement Thursday reiterating that the ministerial committee in charge of a plan to repatriate 15,000 Syrians per month still supports the idea, but that not all members agree to the plan as it currently stands. Hajjar noted that the committee supports “any step that falls into the category of refugee return.”Here’s...