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Media Exaggeration, Minimal Turnout: Lebanon and Assad Apply First Phase of “Voluntary Return” Play

The Lebanese authorities celebrated the return of hundreds of Syrian refugees to their country, according to Orient Net.
Media Exaggeration, Minimal Turnout: Lebanon and Assad Apply First Phase of “Voluntary Return” Play

The Assad regime celebrated the return of hundreds of displaced Syrians from Lebanon on Wednesday through its media. He conducted “fake” interviews with several forcibly returned to their country. The convoy of returnees included about 750 people, mostly women and children, who entered from the Zamrani crossing in rural Damascus, and the Dabousiya crossing in the countryside of Homs.

According to confidential sources, most of the returning Syrians were living in poor conditions in refugee camps in the Lebanese region of Arsal before being pressured by various means to push them to return. Most of the refugees returning hail from the areas and villages of western Qalamoun in the countryside of Damascus and some towns and villages in the countryside of Homs. The Assad government claimed that it “took all the necessary measures and facilities for all residents to reach their areas and homes.”

42% of Prisoners in Lebanon are Syrians

International organizations have also been largely absent from the “media” regarding the return of hundreds of refugees to Syria. These organizations have been and continue to refuse to pressure refugees to forcibly return them to their “unsafe” country. This is contrary to what the Lebanese authorities insist on in the service of their ally, the Assad regime on the one hand, and to cover up their economic corruption on the other.

The media coverage of Iran’s arms in Syria and Lebanon was not commensurate with the number of refugees returning to Syria. That convoy carries hundreds of returnees in exchange for hundreds of thousands who refused to return from Lebanon due to the absence of appropriate conditions as well as the absence of guarantees that protect them from the oppression of Assad’s militias. This comes in addition to the timid presence of those who agreed to the return “masquerade” with the exit of 12 Syrian refugees “only” from the Masnaa crossing, which is the official crossing between the two countries. The convoy included refugees who live in the Arsal area and have taken rough roads in the Hamid area towards the Zamrani crossing in rural Damascus.

The Lebanese authorities not only celebrated the return of hundreds of Syrian refugees to their country but also considered it a “great victory.” The caretaker Minister of Social Affairs, Hector Hajjar, described it as a “national and historic day,” denying that there was any pressure exerted on returning refugees.

While informed Lebanese sources confirmed to our correspondent Elena Bounima in  Lebanon that the convoy of refugees returning to Syria is nothing more than a “masquerade” carried out by the Lebanese authorities in front of local and international opinion, the facts confirm the absence of favourable conditions for the return of Syrians to their country.

A human rights defender specializing in Syrian refugees in Lebanon pointed to concerns affecting Syrian prisoners who have completed their prison term, as the Lebanese authorities had already admitted two years ago to return them to their country immediately after the end of their sentences in Lebanon’s prisons, on charges of “illegally entering Lebanon” and other charges related to the absence of identity papers and others. However, such a return poses a threat to their lives.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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