More than 2,700 Syr­i­ans de­ported from Le­banon un­der new rule

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Abby Sewell

BEIRUT: From May 21 un­til now, Le­banese au­thor­i­ties have de­ported 2,731 Syr­i­ans who en­tered the coun­try via un­of­fi­cial cross­ings, Le­banese Gen­eral Se­cu­rity told The Daily Star Mon­day.

The agency de­nied a re­cent re­port by a hu­man rights group that said some de­por­tees had been de­tained and tor­tured in Syria af­ter be­ing handed over to Syr­ian au­thor­i­ties.

Re­cent de­ci­sions by the Higher De­fense Coun­cil and Gen­eral Se­cu­rity have al­lowed Le­banese au­thor­i­ties to de­port Syr­ian refugees who en­tered the coun­try il­le­gally af­ter April 24, 2019.

This rep­re­sents a break with pre­vi­ous pol­icy, un­der which Syr­i­ans who were in the coun­try with­out le­gal res­i­dency doc­u­ments might be ar­rested, but were gen­er­ally not de­ported. The new pol­icy is in line with as­ser­tions by Le­banese of­fi­cials that most of Syria is safe and that refugees should re­turn.

A re­port re­leased ear­lier this month by Ac­cess Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights re­searchers said the group had con­firmed six cases of “un­of­fi­cial de­por­ta­tion” of Syr­ian refugees liv­ing in Le­banon, who were de­tained in May and June and “un­law­fully de­liv­ered to Syr­ian se­cu­rity ser­vices.”

In all of those cases, the group said, the refugees had been liv­ing in Le­banon since be­fore April 24, and some were reg­is­tered with the U.N. refugee agency. At least two of the de­por­tees were tor­tured by Syr­ian au­thor­i­ties af­ter their re­turn and were in­ter­ro­gated about “their ac­tiv­i­ties in Le­banon, po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions, pre­vi­ous ac­tivism in Syria and the rea­son they were re­sid­ing abroad,” the re­port said.

Gen­eral Se­cu­rity Mon­day re­sponded to The Daily Star’s re­quest for com­ment on the re­port, say­ing that “the al­le­ga­tions con­tained in the re­port of the Ac­cess Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights are false.”

In re­sponse to the re­quest, the agency also gave 2,731 as the num­ber of “Syr­i­ans who were re­turned for en­ter­ing [Le­banon] sur­rep­ti­tiously” since May 21. It was not clear how many of those had been ap­pre­hended at the bor­der and how many were liv­ing in­side the coun­try.

The agency did not re­spond to a ques­tion re­gard­ing what doc­u­men­ta­tion would be ac­cepted as proof that a refugee had en­tered Le­banon prior to April 24.

The UNHCR has been ad­vis­ing refugees to “en­sure that you have any proof of en­try be­fore April 24 with you at all times,” in­clud­ing exit doc­u­ments from Syria, ap­point­ment vouch­ers with the UNHCR, lease agree­ments, elec­tric­ity bills, ed­u­ca­tion cer­tifi­cates, hos­pi­tal bills and Le­banese res­i­dency doc­u­ments, even if ex­pired.

A num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions have raised alarms about the new de­por­ta­tion pol­icy and par­tic­u­larly about the lack of a court process.

Ghida Frang­ieh, an at­tor­ney with NGO The Le­gal Agenda, noted that the fig­ures showed an av­er­age of 30 Syr­i­ans be­ing de­ported per day. “The speed of the de­por­ta­tions is an ad­di­tional proof that those de­por­ta­tions are il­le­gal and do not re­spect due process,” she said. “Syria is not safe for ev­ery­one, yet Syr­i­ans are de­ported with­out any ob­jec­tive as­sess­ment of the risks they might face in Syria.”

Ge­orge Ghali, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the lo­cal hu­man rights group ALEF, told The Daily Star that the num­ber of de­por­ta­tions “is of great con­cern to us.”

“We have no idea whether any kind of screen­ing was done to these in­di­vid­u­als prior to their de­por­ta­tions to en­sure that they are not at risk of per­se­cu­tion in Syria, some­thing that could put Le­banon in vi­o­la­tion of the prin­ci­ple of non­re­foule­ment,” he said, re­fer­ring to the prin­ci­ple of in­ter­na­tional law that for­bids coun­tries that re­ceive refugees from re­turn­ing them to coun­tries where they would be in dan­ger of per­se­cu­tion.

“More im­por­tantly, ir­reg­u­lar en­tries to Le­banon are crimes, and there­fore a court should is­sue such or­ders. De­por­ta­tions done by [Gen­eral Se­cu­rity] are in vi­o­la­tion of due process and prevent in­di­vid­u­als from be­ing heard by a com­pe­tent court.”

Syr­ian refugees en­ter a bus to cross into Syria at the Mas­naa bor­der cross­ing last year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.