The “Voluntary” Forced Return of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

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On October 2022, amid fears and criticism from humanitarian organizations and political parties warning of violations that may affect returning Syrian refugees, the Lebanese authorities announced the resumption of the return plan for Syrian refugees to their country, which had begun in 2017 and put on hold during the “Covid-19” pandemic in 2020.

The number of families who registered to return in the first convoy with the Lebanese Ministry of the Displaced reached 483, i.e., between 1,500 and 1,800 people, with 235 cars registered”, according to what the Minister of Displaced in the caretaker government, Issam Sharfuddin said in one of the official statements.

On November 5th, 2022, the second batch of the “voluntary return” plan was launched from the Arsal region. “The convoy of the wanted” is a name attributed to it by Syrian refugees and activists in several Lebanese areas; the reasons for this attribution remain unknown.

According to what was monitored by ACHR, the number of returnees in the second batch reached about one hundred persons. The convoy reached the western Qalamoun area in the town of Ras al-Ain.

Refugees in Lebanon are struggling to secure their families’ basis needs due to the deterioration of economic and living conditions in Lebanon, the scarcity of assistance provided to them, and the delays of UNHCR in responding to their demands.

The lack of application of the basic concepts of voluntary return by the Lebanese government, as well as the absence of the international community’s role in urging it to adhere to the principle of non-refoulment, causes much confusion regarding the future of refugees. The Lebanese government carries out deportations and forced returns without giving refugees the right to a decent living or securing their basic needs. This prevents them from making a genuine decision as to whether or not to return to Syria at a time when Syria is still unsafe for them.
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