Amnesty International called on Lebanon on Monday to “immediately stop forcibly deporting refugees back to Syria,” after dozens were returned to the war-torn country amidst increasing anti-Syrian sentiment. Lebanese authorities reportedly sent dozens of Syrian refugees back on Friday, despite warnings of grave danger in their home country. The human rights organisation warned that these refugees face the risk of torture or persecution by the Syrian government upon their return.
The London-based rights group revealed that the Syrians were expelled following raids on their homes in different areas of Lebanon, with those who had “entered the country irregularly or held expired residency cards” being deported. It cited one refugee’s brother, who claimed that the Lebanese armed forces drove them “directly to the border and handed them over to the Syrian army.”
Since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to neighbouring Lebanon. The country, which is grappling with its own ongoing political and economic crises, hosts around two million Syrian refugees, with nearly 830,000 registered with the United Nations.
Lebanese authorities have long advocated for the return of Syrian refugees and have initiated several repatriation efforts, which they describe as voluntary. However, rights groups argue that these are forced deportations. Aya Majzoub, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, emphasised that no refugee should be sent back to a place where their life would be at risk and warned that the deportation constituted a violation of the principle of non-refoulement.
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