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HomeStatementsOpinionDo Not Toss Syrian Refugees Back to the Monster

Do Not Toss Syrian Refugees Back to the Monster

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Fadel Abdul Ghany

At the start of this April, Lebanese authorities launched a still ongoing crackdown in areas of the country with a large Syrian population, which saw the detention and forced repatriation of dozens of Syrian refugees. It is an inescapable fact that those campaigns of raids, arrests and internationally outlawed forced refoulment constitute a blatant violation of Syrian refugees’ most fundamental rights, with many there unable to safely acquire official documents proving the legality of their presence in the country. Those seized in these raids have been targeted without mercy and repatriated to Syria. The Syrian Network of Human Rights (SNHR) has documented the refoulment of 168 Syrian refugees in Lebanon since the beginning of April, with almost one-third of those affected being women and children. All the victims have suffered numerous violations at the hands of both the Syrian and Lebanese armies.
The forced return of Syrian refugees by Lebanese authorities is an explicit violation of the Non-Refoulment Principle in international law, which prohibits states from repatriating refugees facing potential persecution, torture, or other serious human rights violations. The Syrian regime and its two principal allies, Iran and Russia, pose a serious threat to the lives of those forced to return to Syria. In this context, the actions of Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese government body, have led to the displacement of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees from Syria to Lebanon, particularly those from border areas such as al-Qusair, Madaya, and al-Qalamoun. The Lebanese group subsequently occupied the lands and seized the prosperities of those Syrians who had been displaced. How, then, can the Lebanese government rationalize the forced return of Syrian refugees after playing a part in occupying their lands and seizing their homes!?
The Syrian refugees’ right to non-refoulment should be a priority on the agendas of all upcoming Arab League meetings. The Syrian regime’s brutal mistreatment of both those who’ve remained in Syria and those returning to the country has remained unchanged since 2011, with the regime continues to perpetrate horrific violations against the Syrian people. It is an incontrovertible fact that any Syrian refugees forced to return will suffer the same persecution and criminal abuses that residents in Syria are already suffering, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearance, torture, lawlessness, and the encroachment of the regime’s security apparatus.
These latest crackdowns in Lebanon are, in fact, nothing new, with Syrian refugees in the country living in constant fear of such abuses and similar campaigns of intimidation and persecution for 12 years. The Lebanese judiciary has failed to launch any investigation at all into the torture, enforced disappearance, and deaths under torture of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This shameful situation must change and justice must be attained for these victims. Lebanon, as well as Turkey, and Jordan, must comply with international law by respecting the Principle of Non-Refoulment since this is a binding customary law, even for those states that have not ratified the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The Lebanese government bears legal responsibility for the torture, killing, enforced disappearance, and all other violations perpetrated by the Syrian regime against any refugees forced to return, in addition, of course, to the direct responsibility of the Syrian regime itself for such violations. As long as the current regime remains in power, with its current and ruthless security apparatus intact, the refoulment of Syrian refugees will remain a blatant violation of international law and a mark of shame for any country whose government forcibly deports a vulnerable group and knowingly pushes them into life-threatening danger.
This is the reality for all displaced Syrians in the countries neighbouring Syria, who live in fear of the rulers’ potential restoration of relations with the Syrian regime, which would mean their being thrown back into the regime’s murderous and malign clutches. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approximately half the Syrian people are either refugees or internally displaced person (IDPs); they will not return voluntarily or be able to return safely to Syria without major political changes within the ruling system there taking place beforehand.
In its most recent report released in February 2023, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI) confirmed that Syria remains unsafe for the return of refugees. Therefore, the international community is long overdue to take urgent action to protect the fundamental rights of refugees. It is our duty to ensure that refugees are not returned against their will to a country where they will surely face persecution, torture, and other grave and lethal human rights violations. The international community must act urgently to prevent more violations and ensure protection and support for refugees so they can build a safe and dignified life.
The article was first published in Arabic by The New Arab on this link.

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