In response the General Security Statement regarding the call for refugees to renew their residency in Lebanon

Press release – Lebanon

A statement was issued by the General Directorate of the General Security encouraging Syrian nationals, especially those holding valid registration certificates from UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) prior to 1 January 2015, to approach their offices and centers designated for Syrians to renew their residency papers and settle their legal status.

While “Access Center for Human Rights” (ACHR) welcomes the Lebanese government’s attempt to improve its policy of dealing with refugees, it expresses its concern for the Syrian refugees registered after 2015 and the unregistered ones who are exempt from this decision. UNHCR statistics indicate that the number of refugees registered with it as of 01/31/2020 is 910,256 refugees, and it is very clear that only a portion of them may benefit from this decision. Indeed according to VASyR only 22% of registered Syrian refugees above the age of 15 reported having legal residency, compared to 27% in 2018.[1] Additionally, the Lebanese government estimates the total number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to be approximately 1.5 million, which indicates that the number of refugees who will not benefit from the latest decision, may exceed 500 thousand Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon.

Refugees who entered Lebanon after 2015 are subjected to very restrictive legal residency laws. That same year, the Lebanese General Directorate of the General Security imposed new entry and inconsistent residency policies for Syrians along with difficult conditions that are almost

 impossible to fulfill in order to obtain legal status, which further exposes them to marginalization, exploitation and many other violations. Additionally, the lack of legal status hinders their ability to submit legal complaints to the security offices, which prevents Syrian refugees from seeking legal redress. 

It is worth noting that the decision issued in 2015 to amend entry and residency conditions of Syrians in Lebanon was invalidated by the State Council. Indeed, the latter issued a decision confirming that the General Directorate of General Security has no authority to modify the entry and residency conditions of Syrians in Lebanon; rather, the law states that the competent authority is the Council of Ministers. Despite this, the decision has not been implemented to this date, forcing many Syrian citizens to enter Lebanese territory illegally. Furthermore, in April 2019, the Supreme Defense Council issued a decision to deport Syrian refugees who entered illegally after the date of 24 April 2019. Consequently, these two decisions exposed tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to the risk of numerous violations such as arbitrary detention, forced deportation to Syria, persecution and torture.

Besides these two decisions, there are other actions including the plan to combat illegal foreign workforce and the measures taken by the municipalities that pressure refugees to return to Syria. Indeed, thousands of refugees have returned due to the harsh policies and deteriorating conditions in Lebanon and not because they believe that Syria has become safe.

Since the beginning of 2019 until February 2020, ACHR documented five collective cases, most of them following the patrol raids of Lebanese security authorities on Syrian refugee camps in northern Lebanon, in addition to arrests at checkpoints and raids on their homes, which led to the arbitrary arrest/detention of 194 people. Moreover, the ACHR registered 104individual cases of arbitrary arrest/detention and 45 of them were deported to Syria. 

On 26 August 2019, General Security said that it had deported, from 21/05/2019 until 28/8/2019, 2,731 Syrians entered Lebanon illegally.

ACHR” recommends the followings:

– Emphasizing Lebanon’s obligations under international laws and agreements that stipulate not to forcibly return refugees – as the Supreme Defense Council’s decision may expose refugees exempt by the General Security’s statement to this risk.

– Reconsidering this decision to include all refugees on Lebanese territory, as granting refugees’ legal residency permit may benefit the Lebanese government by enabling statistics regarding refugees on its territory, with realistic and accurate data, allowing it to establish a mechanism to organize refugee presence.

– Allow the UNHCR to register refugees, given the need of thousands of unregistered Syrians, to ensure their protection and safety, and to annul the Lebanese government’s decision to suspend the registration of refugees at the UNHCR.

Organizations signatories:

  • Centre for Defending Civil Rights & Liberties
  • Freedom Jasmine
  • International humanitarian relief
  • La justice et le développement durable
  • Lebanese Foundation for Democracy and Human Rights – LIFE
  • Sound and Picture
  • Syrian civil coalition (TAMAS)
  • Syrian journalists Association
  • Syrians for Truth and Justice-STj
  • Syrian Network for Human Rights
  • Syrian press center
  • Syrian Women’s Network-Shams
  • Syrian women network
  • White Hat Organization for Sustainable Development

[1] VASyR 2019, Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/73118.pdf