Nearly 700 Syrian Refugees in Arsal Head Home to Qalamoun Region

While Hezbollah provided guarantees that refugees would be protected, the UN claims that it is not safe for them to return writes Zaman Al Wasl

On Monday morning, a third installment of refugees who had signed up to return to Syria started their journey home from the Lebanese border town of Arsal, the Lebanese Daily Star reported.

About 700 Syrian refugees who have been living near the border town of Arsal returned to their towns in the western Qalamoun region which overlooks the Lebanese Bekka Valley.

The convoy of refugees was due to enter Syria last Wednesday, but procedures by Lebanese General Security delayed the move, according to Basil al-Hujair, director of Arsal's municipality.

10 weeks ago, 377 refugees returned from Arsal to Syria. Most of the refugees are from the western Qalamoun region.

Hezbollah militia has provided guarantees that refugees will not be prosecuted and have immunity from the regime if they accept returning to Syria.

Thousands of Syrians are unable to return because their homes were destroyed by fighting, or because they fear military conscription or retribution from regime forces.

But the tough retractions and mounting arrest campaign by Lebanese security have pushed hundreds of refugees to move back home as fighting there subsides.

The Syrian regime has called on refugees to return, saying it has successfully cleared large areas of "terrorists," according to AP.

The appeal reflects the regime's growing confidence after more than seven years of war. Syrian regime forces, with crucial support from Russia and Iran, recently retook large areas near the capital, Damascus, and are waging a new offensive in the south. The regime refers to all armed opposition groups as terrorists.

Over 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country. The Foreign Ministry says many internally displaced people have already returned home, and urge refugees to do same.

In May, 3,000 refugees were set to leave northeast Lebanon to the Qalamoun region, despite the United Nations saying conditions are still not suitable and refusing to organize the returns.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon have called on the UN refugee agency to protect them from the abuses of Lebanese security forces, that has used the identities of UNHCR employees to trick refugees in its latest arrest campaign.

A number of Syrian refugees told Zaman al-Wasl that the Lebanese security forces have been claiming that they are workers for the UNHCR, in order to covertly gain access and interrogate the refugees; such a claim enables the arrest of some of them later.

This new violation of human rights and the moral low followed Lebanon's call for refugees to return to Syria's Assad.

Lebanese officials have accused the UN refugee agency of deliberately discouraging refugees from returning.

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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