BEIRUT — Lebanese authorities have arrested more than 2,000 Syrian refugees and deported 1,800 since April 2023, when the caretaker cabinet gathered to discuss enforcing controversial measures against refugees, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Wednesday.
Testimonies in the report included cases of beatings, arbitrary detainment and forced military conscription against returnees to Syria, which is still at war and where there are widely documented abuses against those accused of pro-opposition ties.
"While there are no official public statistics on the number of arrests or deportations, a humanitarian source stated that since April 2023, there have been over 100 raids, 2,200 arrests, and 1,800 deportations of Syrian refugees" from Lebanon, according to the HRW report.
Lebanon currently hosts 1.5 million refugees, according to Lebanese authorities, with some politicians and residents calling for their deportation amid a years-long economic crisis.
The caretaker cabinet regularly calls for repatriation, and several ministers have recently visited Damascus to discuss the issue.
"Humanitarian workers have stated that the wave of deportations in 2023 is the most severe," HRW reported. Instead, Lebanese authorities "should allow Syrians to regularize their status in the country" and donor countries providing humanitarian aid "should ensure that funding does not contribute to rights violations."
Abuses against returnees
HRW said it had interviewed six Syrians who said they faced "abusive treatment during their deportation with beatings, threats, sexual harassment and degrading treatment, including being blindfolded, slapped and forced to stand for hours."
"Lebanon is hosting the largest number of refugees per capita in the world amid a grueling economic crisis, but this is no excuse to round up Syrians and dump them over the border into the hands of their abusive government," Ramzi Kaiss, an HRW researcher, was quoted as saying in Wednesday's report.
"Syrians in Lebanon are living in constant fear that they could be picked up and sent back to nightmarish conditions, regardless of their refugee status," he added.
According to HRW, the Lebanese army and General Security responded to its findings, stating that it authorities are implementing the decision of the Supreme Defense Council from April 24, 2019, to expel Syrians who have entered Lebanon irregularly since April 2019. It also claims to be acting in accordance with the conclusions of a ministerial meeting held on April 26, HRW said.