ACHR: Lebanese authorities must intervene to stop violations against refugees, and the UNHCR must act

Press Statement
Beirut – 19 May 2021

With the Syrian presidential elections scheduled for 26 May 2021 in Syria and 20 May for Syrians residing in Lebanon, Syrian embassies and representations are actively inviting Syrians around the world to participate in the elections in Syria, while in Lebanon, Lebanese political parties and currents opposing the presence of refugees on their lands – allies of the government of the current Syrian regime – are exercising pressure on Syrians in Lebanon to force their participation in the upcoming elections, by using their political and security influence in some areas, amid a clear disregard by the Lebanese authorities to address these pressures, and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon to take any public step to reassure refugees in its role to protect them.

Since last April, Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR) has observed practices and pressures on Syrians in several areas in Lebanon, to force them to participate in the Syrian presidential elections for the benefit of the current president, Bashar al-Assad, by exploiting the illegal conditions of refugees (80 percent do not hold legal residency due to complicated procedures imposed by Lebanon,[1]) and their difficult living conditions as 89 percent of refugees live under the poverty line,[2] and exploiting their fears of arrest and/or deportation to Syria in light of extremely difficult security and political conditions in Lebanon, which constitutes direct pressure on refugees and drives them to register their information with the Syrian regime’s government agents in Lebanon due to their fears of these threats.

ACHR observed direct threats against civil society activists and camp superintendents, to have them pressure refugees in their surroundings to register their names as voters with the Syrian embassy in Beirut, through offices established by the aforementioned Lebanese political parties and currents to record voter information in preparation for participating in the Syrian presidential elections from Lebanon, while these practices are primarily in Beirut, Baalbek, Akkar and the South. ACHR also documented three abduction cases of refugees who were also severely beaten by Lebanese political parties for refusing to register names of people in their surroundings on the voters’ list, including two activists who are still receiving threats from the same political parties, and these abuses are documented in reports from a Medical Examiner.

Access Center for Human Rights finds it necessary to ensure a safe and secure political space for all Syrians, in and outside of their country, with respect to human rights, international laws and the UN Security Council resolutions, and calls on:

The Lebanese Government:

  • Adopt decisions to put an end to these practices and to assert the sovereignty of Lebanon and Lebanese authorities in their official security agencies.
  • Take immediate and urgent action to secure necessary protection for Syrians from the pressures, threats, and/or violations they are exposed to on its territories.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon:

  • Urgently intensify contact and coordination with Lebanese authorities to intervene in stopping any threats and pressures from parties and currents.
  • Raise the awareness of refugees regarding their rights and obligations in the host country.

The international community with its embassies and official offices in Lebanon:

  • Communicate with refugees through civil society organizations and verify the context of the pressures exerted on them.
  • Issue public statements clarifying its position regarding refugees being forced to participate in the presidential elections.

[1] Interagency Coordination, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR), 18 December 2020. https://bit.ly/3ennsVl
[2] Ibid.