BEIRUT — The Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdelkarim Ali, said Friday that "more than 89 percent of Syrian refugees want to be repatriated." The envoy's statement comes after Lebanese President Michel Aoun said earlier this month that Lebanon would start repatriating Syrian refugees "gradually."
"According to UN statistics, more than 89 percent of refugees want to be repatriated, and Syria has presented all facilities," Ali said during a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, according to the state-run National News Agency.
Ali also referred to "European pressure and pressure from donor countries" as a way to "try to demonize the return of Syrians … while it is in their interest and that of Syria that they return home."
"We realize that the number of Syrians in Lebanon exceeds the country's capacity to receive them," the ambassador added.
According to the Lebanese government, 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. Caretaker Minister of Displaced Persons Issam Charafeddine told the al-Jadeed TV channel Friday that "6,000" Syrian refugees will be repatriated to Syria on Wednesday in "three convoys."
On Oct. 12, Aoun announced that Lebanon will start repatriating Syrian refugees "gradually" and "starting next week," but no repatriation has taken place so far.
Charafeddine had told L'Orient Today that this is a "voluntary" repatriation in accordance with the plan he had made to ensure the return of 15,000 displaced Syrians per month.
Lebanese officials have been lobbying for years for the return of Syrian refugees to their country, but the international community and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have always spoken against such a move, deeming the return dangerous due to ongoing human rights violations in the Syria.