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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Beirut - Caroline Akoum

Lebanon Divided over Return of Displaced Syrians

A camp for the displaced Syrians in Al-Rayhaniyah, in the Akkar governorate, northern Lebanon (AFP)

Some political parties and local communities have called for the deportation of Syrian refugees, while others and international organizations considered that the conditions for their return were not suitable.

In light of this situation, there have been warnings against potential “Syrian-Lebanese clashes”, especially with anonymous calls for the displaced Syrians to demonstrate outside the UNHCR headquarters on Wednesday, in parallel with a similar invitation by the Lebanese demanding their deportation.

On Tuesday, the head of the Kataeb Party, MP Samir Gemayel, said that Lebanon could no longer tolerate the presence of refugees.

During a press conference in Beirut following a meeting with UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka, Gemayel said: “Lebanon received more than 1.8 million displaced people, and dealt with them in the best humane way; but today we are facing a new phase as the hostilities in Syria have ended, and there are no more open battles. Thus, it is possible for them to return to their country.”

“It is time for us to change the way we dealt with this issue,” he underlined.

The former deputy speaker of parliament, Elie Ferzli, warned against a potential “Syrian-Lebanese infighting”.

In remarks following a meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri on Tuesday, Ferzli said that some Syrians abroad were “shouting extremely dangerous slogans.”

“We have an interest in expediting the election of a president, who would deal with and resolve this file as soon as possible,” he stated.

On the other hand, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) demanded guarantees for the return of refugees to their country.

MP Hadi Abul-Hassan told Asharq Al-Awsat: “In our opinion, the refugees must return to their country… but with international guarantees” especially for anti-regime figures.

He added that the guarantees must include a safe return and appropriate social conditions.

Meanwhile, calls for demonstrations on Wednesday in front of the UNHCR headquarters in Beirut, were raised by a group presenting itself as the “National Campaign to Liberate Lebanon from the Syrian Demographic Occupation,” and to “confront the arrogance of the occupier”.

The organizers said that their move came in response to an invitation from the displaced Syrians to demonstrate before the Commission, to reject their forced deportation.

Maroun Khouli, head of the General Confederation of Lebanese Trade Unions, which launched the campaign last week, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We called for the protest in parallel with the demonstration held by the displaced Syrians because we will not allow them to stand against the decisions of the Lebanese army and the laws.”

On the other hand, a displaced Syrian in Lebanon confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that calls from unknown sources circulated among the refugees, urging them to demonstrate. He stressed that this was an attempt to stir tension between the Lebanese and the Syrians.

Following information that pointed to the deportation of more than 50 Syrians from Lebanon, Amnesty International called on the Lebanese authorities to “halt the illegal deportations of Syrian refugees for fear that they will be subjected to torture or persecution by the Syrian government upon their return.”

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Aya Majzoub, released a statement saying: “No refugee should be returned to a place where his life would be in danger.”

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