BEIRUT — Lebanon's caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi announced new measures on Tuesday targeting Syrian refugees, calling on Lebanon's eight governates to contribute to a newly-launched "national survey campaign to enumerate and register displaced Syrians" and to halt renting real estate or issuing documents to the unregistered refugees.
This is the latest move amid aggressive policing of Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon and a rise in deportations and anti-refugee rhetoric.
The official announcement, which Mawlawi sent out on Tuesday, asked officials to "enumerate and register all displaced Syrians residing within their scope," as part of a newly-launched survey.
The statement said that besides ministers, the measures will also be implemented by district admins, municipalities, mayors across villages and even where there are no municipalities and where Syrian refugees live.
The Interior Minister also requested all mayors as well the Justice Ministry not to issue any documents to Syrian refugees before providing evidence of their registration. Mawlawi also stood against renting "any real estate to any displaced Syrian before verifying that they are registered with the municipality and hold legal residency in Lebanon."
The minister also requested a field survey of all institutions owned or run by Syrians refugees and verifying their possession of legal licenses.
Mawlawi also called on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to permanently close the files of Syria refugees who voluntarily return to their country and to refrain from reopening them even if the individuals in question re-enter Lebanon.
On Sunday, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar said Lebanon needs a “solution to reduce tensions" amid heightened anti-Syrian sentiment in the country.
“There is a risk of a big explosion between the Lebanese and the displaced Syrians in Lebanon,” Hajjar said in an interview Sunday evening with local channel LBCI. Last month, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi banned a protest held by Syrian refugees against the increase in deportations after the announcement of a counter-protest by a group calling itself “The National Campaign to Free Lebanon from Syrian Demographic Occupation.”
On April 26, the government issued regulations targeting Syrian refugees, including tougher enforcement of labor restrictions and measures to reduce the number of displaced persons. Hajjar explained the measures, including additional data collection and record requests to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), as a need to address “the unregulated dispersion of Syrian displaced persons,” which he estimated at “more than 1,600,000.”
Hundreds of people have been arrested since the start of April and dozens have been deported amid increased crackdowns on Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon. Rights groups have warned of the dangers associated with refugees’ return to Syria, including mandatory military conscription, arrest and forced disappearance.
On Friday, a Syrian father facing threats of deportation to Syria, where he is wanted for mandatory military service, died by apparent suicide.