Beirut, 13 September 2022 — The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) expresses extreme concern over Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Sharafeddine’s announcement of a plan for a mass return of refugees to Syria at a rate of 15,000 refugees per month, made during his visit to Damascus. While we are aware of the political quarrels and lack of clarity within the Lebanese government on the issue of return, we call on Lebanon’s government to include Syrian refugees’ interests and rights in their plans and ensure that Lebanon remains committed to international law on protection of refugees.
Last week, the family of Syrian refugee Bashar Abdul Saud woke up to devastating news that he died under torture by Lebanese Security Forces. This incident is yet another reminder of the vulnerability and mistreatment suffered by Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Displaced Syrians remain thankful to the people of Lebanon for their hospitality and remind the world that Lebanon has taken in some 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Yet we are very concerned by such actions of security forces and visits from the Lebanese government officials to Damascus, as they jointly increase the possibility of a premature return to what is an unsafe and extremely dangerous situation in areas under the control of the Syrian regime. There are simply no conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return to Syria.
The Access Center for Human Rights, a human rights group tracking the conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, has confirmed 25 cases of deportation of Syrian refugees from Lebanon in 2022 through the end of July.
Such deportations are taking place amid ample evidence that the Syrian regime did not abandon its oppressive practices of arbitrary detention, forced conscription, discriminatory HLP legislations and decrees, forced disappearance, illegal killings and torture. There are mountains of evidence provided by SACD and numerous other organizations of such practices continuing to this date across the areas controlled by the Syrian regime.
The Lebanese return plan for Syrian refugees violates international conventions and treaties that protect refugees from forced return and criminalize any attempts to force refugees to return to the country they fled, while the party violating human rights is still in power.
The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity confirms once again that securing a safe environment according to the vision of displaced Syrians is the only way to secure the conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified return, and this environment cannot be achieved without a comprehensive and sustainable political solution with real international guarantees.
We also call upon the UNHCR in Lebanon to protect and secure the rights of Syrian refugees not only to a safe and dignified life, but also to mitigate the circumstances and practices that are forcing Syrian refugees to make the bitter choice of returning back to an unsafe Syria, where it has been documented that returnees from Lebanon were subjected to torture and harassment. In such circumstances, the UNHCR must work on relocating Syrian refugees to other host countries where they will be provided with better, and safer, living conditions.