BEIRUT — On Wednesday, a 16 point resolution on Lebanon was passed by the European Parliament.
The resolution deals with various issues, including the political crisis and the Beirut blast. The 13th paragraph, which refers to the presence of Syrian refugees in the country, has triggered controversy.
Several Lebanese politicians criticized article 13 of the text, which they believe encourages Syrian refugees to remain in Lebanon.
While article 13 does not explicitly call for Syrian refugees to remain in Lebanon, it states that "the conditions required for a voluntary and dignified return of refugees are not present."
This reflects the position the international community has taken over the years. The text also calls on Lebanon "to refrain from expelling, imposing discriminatory measures and inciting hatred against Syrian refugees."
On Wednesday, caretaker Minister of Social Affairs, Hector Hajjar, a firm supporter of the repatriation of Syrian refugees, criticized in a tweet "the European Parliament's overwhelming vote for a resolution that supports keeping Syrian refugees in Lebanon." According to Hajjar, this resolution "is not surprising."
For his part, caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine announced on Al-Jadeed TV on Thursday that he called for an emergency meeting of the cabinet "to respond to this arbitrary decision" of the European Parliament. "They are behaving as if Lebanon were a European colony, which we totally reject," he said. Charafeddine reaffirmed that Syria also "agrees" with Lebanon's desire to repatriate Syrian refugees.
‘Pressure on the Syrian regime’
In a statement, the Kataeb party strongly condemned article 13, which they believe "failed to put in place the necessary roadmap for their return to their country, which is essential for Lebanon's stability."
"The Kataeb have expressed their views on the presence of over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon at all their international meetings. We have also called on the international community to exert pressure on Bashar al-Assad's regime to ensure the social and political conditions necessary for their return," continued the statement.
The Lebanese Forces echoed this sentiment, stating in a press release that "article 13 of the resolution, which refers to Syrian refugees, is contrary to what the Lebanese want and what we have asked our European friends and partners to do, concerning the return of refugees and the need to support them once they have returned to their country."
The LF also called for the transfer of refugees to other countries "in Europe or in the Arab world."
"Lebanon can no longer bear the burden of refugees (...) Most Syrian regions are stable and secure. Voluntary and dignified return is now possible, whether for supporters of the regime or opponents," the LF statement continued.
The head of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Committee, Fady Alameh (Amal), said he was "surprised" by the content of the European resolution "which goes against the Lebanese Constitution and laws, as well as the right of refugees to return home." He said the text "openly contradicts Lebanese sovereignty."
"The Lebanese and Syrian governments, as well as the Arab League, should have been contacted in order to reach a solution to this issue through the safe and voluntary return of displaced persons," stressed Alameh in a statement, while refusing "any xenophobic discourse."