Friday, 12 March 2021.
In 2019, the Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR) worked on the issue of arbitrary deportation from Lebanon, considering it the most serious human rights violation against Syrian refugees residing on Lebanese territory. The Lebanese authorities were, and still are, adopting restrictive policies and practices that deprive refugees of several rights to indirectly prompt them to return to Syria; most notably the policy of repeated arbitrary arrests of Syrian refugees, the hate speech produced by politicians and officials of the Lebanese government, and the increased complexity of legal residency procedures.
We continue to witness cases of forced repatriation and deportation from Lebanon ignoring the International Bill of Human Rights, most recently the case of the Syrian refugee “M.K.”; who was forcibly deported from the Lebanese territories to Syria on 03 March 2021. Such cases run counter to the many efforts exerted warning Lebanese authorities against forced returns, such as the publication of a detailed report by ACHR on the issue of forced deportations in August 2019, and the formation of a delegation of refugee rights’ defenders (which adopted the topic of forced deportation as a priority for refugee issues in Lebanon during its meetings with foreign embassies, the European Union, and the Lebanese government). Other endeavors include sending repeated appeals to the Lebanese government not to violate any laws and conventions it has ratified, and to protect refugees from the dangers of arrest and torture in Syria.
ACHR followed up on the case of the Syrian refugee “M.K.”, who was arrested by the Lebanese General Security in February 2021 for his illegal entry into Lebanon two months earlier. Although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon was aware of the situation of his arrest and the threats of deporting him into Syria during his detention; they were only able to influence the Lebanese authorities to postpone the deportation to 03 March 2021. ACHR has contacted UNHCR offices in Beirut and informed them of the potential danger(s) to the refugee “M.K.”, stressing the crucial need to intervene to stop his potential deportation. Nevertheless, UNHCR was unable to stop the deportation process, and the Lebanese authorities directly handed over the refugee “M.K.” – who was wanted for compulsory military service – to the Syrian authorities. We have come to know that this refugee has been under arrest and detention since his forcible return to Syria.
ACHR has also monitored and verified at least two similar cases in 2020, which were forcibly returned to Syria early last year (February 2020), and immediately detained by the Syrian authorities upon their return. We have also learned of several other cases but could not validate the information received. In 2019, ACHR has verified at least 42 cases of forced returns of Syrian refugees, while the Lebanese authorities reported that the number of Syrians deported back for sneaking into Lebanese territory amounted to 2,477 cases between 13 May 2019 and 09 August 2019, based on the decision of the Higher Defense Council to deport Syrians who had illegally entered Lebanon after 15 April 2019.1 This difference between the number of arbitrary deportations in 2020 and 2019 is mainly due to the closure of the border between the two countries in 2020 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
To that end, ACHR calls on the Lebanese authorities to fully comply with the international laws and conventions ratified by Lebanon, to halt the arbitrary deportation of any refugee on its territory to ensure their protection; and to allow for the right to appeal deportation decisions issued against them in front of the competent judicial authorities.
We also call on the UNHCR in Lebanon to exert more effort in following up with the cases that might expose refugees to serious violations (most notably arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture), and to pressure the Lebanese government in order to prevent the recurrence of such practices.
Furthermore, we call on the international community not to ignore the above-mentioned violations that may expose refugees to direct dangers. We also request that it activates the principle of conditional funding – tied to the respect for human rights; especially regarding the pressure refugees face with the Lebanese authorities, including forced deportation of refugees in general and Syrians in particular.