28 June 2022
Lebanon – Beirut
Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR) has monitored for the last week, the state of increased security at checkpoints, against Syrian refugees, which was represented by checking the validity of their residency permits amidst fears that the Lebanese authorities would return to practice arbitrary deportations on a broader level. ACHR monitored the security raids in Hosh Harima – Beqaa, which resulted in the demolition of at least 10 tents for Syrian refugees, and the seizure of their property, in addition to the Faour checkpoint in the Beqaa. In Burj Hammoud – Mount Lebanon, the raids included searching residents’ homes and checking identity documents of passers-by, which resulted in the arrest of at least nine young men, while two of them were beaten, as well as the Al-Madfoun Checkpoint in the North governorate that resulted in the arrest of dozens of refugees. These incidents were preceded by Al-Aqoura incident, where on 19 June 2022, (ACHR) documented the arrest, beating, and humiliation of 12 Syrian refugees, including five minors, by a Lebanese landowner. The perpetrator, with a group of friends, handcuffed, beat, and ripped off the clothes of men while beating them using sharp tools and electric cables. The perpetrators also filmed the incident.
The discriminatory practices come as a response to the politicians’ statements, notably the statement of the Lebanese Prime Minister, Najib Mikati on 20 June 2022 in which he threatened the international community and stated that Lebanon would take an “unpleasant position” for the international community unless the latter cooperates to return the refugees Syria. This was followed by his statement a few days later about the possibility of deporting those who lack residency or work permits. Additionally, the statement of the former Foreign Minister, Head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, on 28 June 2022 in which he called on the next government to drop the refugee status of the displaced to ensure their return to their country, stressing Lebanon’s inability to “bear the burden of the displaced”.
These threats were preceded by a statement from the Minister of Social Affairs, Hector Hajjar, in May 2022, where he said, “Although Lebanon is committed to the principle of non-refoulment, it is no longer able to bear the cost of maintaining security in the camps for the displaced,” and in another statement on 22 June 2022, the Minister of the Displaced in the caretaker government, Issam Sharaf El-Din, in which he announced the start of drafting a monthly plan for deportation, the first stage of which is “the establishment of a joint ‘Lebanese-Syrian-international’ committee”. Also, the statement by Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Elias Bousaab, calling for “coordination” with the Syrian government to discuss the refugee file, and a statement by Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdullah Bou Habib, saying that “Lebanon is unable to sustain Syrian refugees anymore”.
Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR) strongly condemns the strict escalation by the Lebanese government and politicians as they promote the argument that the deterioration of the Lebanese status is caused by Syrian refugees, and stresses that the discriminatory speech against Syrian refugees by politicians constantly increases community violence towards them.
Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR) confirms the continuity of its mission to monitor the human rights situation, along with following the statements of officials calling for forced return and the recent escalation of hate speech. Thus, the Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR) stresses the need for the Lebanese authorities to abide by international and local laws and norms related to the principles of arbitrary deportation, especially in the context of the dangerous return to Syria and the resulting arrests and other risks. We also call on the Lebanese authorities to establish the necessary legal mechanisms to stop arbitrary arrests and detentions against Syrian refugees. We also call on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assume its responsibilities more seriously by working to urge the Lebanese authorities to return to Syria with the danger of violating the principles of voluntary return, as well as accurately conveying the reality to the international community.
Finally, we invite the Lebanese government and the international community to review the policy paper that was published in December 2021, co-produced by ACHR and a group of local and international organizations entitled “Refugees in Lebanon: an Unknown Path”, which contains a summary and recommendations on the situation of refugees in Lebanon.