On Thursday, Lebanese media reported that a batch of Syrian refugees had returned to their country as part of the so-called “voluntary return”, but Syrian rights sources said that arrests and raids carried out by Lebanese General Security had affected hundreds of refugees, and that they were them handed over to the Bashar al-Assad regime.
The Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research said that the raids had affected the Arsal region in northern Lebanon, with about 750 Syrians arrested, including women and children and entire families.
The center said that the “arrests were carried out under the pretext of these displaced people signing settlements with the regime in which they vowed to return to Syria.”
The source said that at dawn, refugees were handed over to regime authorities by Lebanese security in addition to about 250 Syrians who had been under arrest in Lebanon.
The number of refugees, which reached about a thousands, was confirmed by the Lebanese Janoubia page, although it did not address how they were handed over or the raids that were carried out against them. The Lebanese National News Agency also confirmed the arrival of dozens of refugees to border crossings with Syria.
The legal center said that, “Lebanese security forces committed fraud, and forced Syrian refugees to sign papers that later turned out to include promises to return.”
It said that, “Lebanese security’s claims about the refugees signing settlements and vowing to return are untrue, especially given that they could have returned on their own without the need for raids, arrests and forcibly being handed over to the regime.”
The center condemned the, “criminal actions against refugees at the hands of Lebanese security, which was premeditated and that could subject returning refugees to dangers that threaten their freedom and lives.”
It also called on all international organizations concerned with refugees to mobilize immediately to follow up on the situation of those who were handed over to the regime and to protect their lives and freedoms.
The Minister for Displaced Affairs in Lebanon, Mouin Merhebi, recently revealed that the Bashar al-Assad regime had killed a number of Syrian refugees who had returned from Lebanese territory to their country.
Merhebi said that the regime had taken revenge, including killings, on Syrian refugees who returned to areas under their control.
Russia has intensified its efforts to return Syrian refugees to their country despite the dangers that these refugees fear in Syria, primarily the ongoing arrests and revenge-taking by the regime against its opponents, in addition to the destruction of a large part of the infrastructure of the cities where the regime has carried out military operations.
In Lebanon, the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Hezbollah in particular are leading major efforts in the Lebanese government to return Syrian refugees to regime-controlled areas in Syria.
The United Nations say that the conditions are not favorable for the return of Syrian refugees to their homes, but Russia aims to return them to aid the Assad regime by telling that world that the situation in Syria is getting better. It is part of an attempt to rehabilitate the regime internationally and persuade Western countries to participate in the reconstruction, while the regime remains in power, according to opposition members.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.