Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF) issued a warning on Wednesday regarding "a series of kidnappings targeting Syrian nationals residing on Lebanese territory."
According to the statement, these kidnappings "are perpetrated by criminal groups using subterfuge to lure their victims out of the territory, thus evading detection or arrest." The ISF explained that the kidnappers create false accounts on social networks, especially on TikTok. The kidnappers falsely claim to their targets that they can arrange their departure from Lebanon to European countries, either by paying for their journey or illegally transporting goods on behalf of traffickers.
"Once the victims reach the border areas, they are abducted, transported and then detained in locations situated on Syrian territory, close to the border with Lebanon," the ISF stated.
"It is here that they endure acts of torture that are filmed or photographed, subsequently used to exert pressure on the victims' families or demand ransoms in exchange for the release of their loved ones," they added.
The ISF said that Lebanese authorities have previously arrested members of these criminal networks, but similar activity resurfaced despite warnings issued by the ISF and awareness campaigns.
The security agency calls on Lebanese citizens and residents to be vigilant, urging them to not be deceived by false accounts and misleading advertisements on social networks, which could endanger their lives. The ISF encourages people to report any incidents or relevant information to the appropriate authorities, either by contacting the nearest General Internal Security center or using the ISF emergency number 112.
In August, the Lebanese Army announced that dozens of people were arrested in North Lebanon for human trafficking and illegal migration. A month earlier, five Syrian nationals were arrested by the troops in the Selaata region of Batroun. They were accused of organizing an illegal sea crossing.
From January to December 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 51 boats involved in irregular transit, with a total of 4,334 passengers on board.
In 2022, candidates for illegal emigration from Lebanon were 62.2% Syrian, 28% Lebanese and 11% Palestinian, according to UNHCR figures.