Syrians forced return by Lebanon is unsafe and illegal

Idlib, Syria, children play in a UN refugee camp. Idlib, Syria, children play in a UN refugee camp. Ahmed Akacha on Pexels

11 July 2022

The plan to deport 15,000 Syrian people every month is a violation of Lebanon's obligations.

This week, Issam Charafeddine, Lebanon's caretaker Minister, declared a governmental plan to start the return of 15,000 Syrian refugees to Syria every month. This critical plan would be delivered without the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which would be a blatant violation of Lebanon's international obligations.

Concerning Syrian opposition activists who face detention, torture, and death in their home country, the Minister suggested deporting them to third countries or pledging the Syrian government that they would not engage in "any negative action in Syrian territory" - presumably on the mistaken assumption that this would protect them from abuses. More than a decade of violence and sanctions have wrecked Syria's economy and infrastructure. Countries hosting Syrian refugees should not compel anybody to return since there are no credible information networks enabling Syrians to make well-informed choices about returning.

Any forced repatriation would be a violation of Lebanon's refoulement commitments, which prohibit forcefully returning persons to countries where they face a clear danger of torture or other persecution, as is a customary international law principle. As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the country is obligated under international law not to repatriate or extradite anybody who is in risk of torture.

Lebanon's policy of forceful returns, with legislation and rules meant to make life difficult for Syrian refugees in order to compel them to leave, further weakens the rights of vulnerable individuals. International donor states should support host countries such as Lebanon by fully financing humanitarian aid programs and relocating more Syrian refugees.


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di Viola Rubeca

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