Lebanese caretaker Minister of Displaced Persons, Issam Sharaf al-Din, said that Lebanon is determined to move forward with plans to repatriate Syrian refugees currently residing in Lebanon.
On Wednesday, the Lebanese government news service the National News Agency reported that Sharaf al-Din said that Lebanon is pursuing a plan to repatriate Syrians, regardless of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) position.
The Lebanese minister spoke about an official visit to Syria, after the Eid al-Adha holiday, during which he will meet with Syrian regime officials to discuss the plan to repatriate Syrians. He noted that the repatriation will be “safe and dignified”.
In the detail of the plan, Sharaf al-Din said that the repatriation would be based on the relevant local conditions. It would be necessary to establish shelters for refugees being repatriated to their towns and villages.
The Lebanese minister did not say which party would fund the repatriation plan, especially since the United Nations and UNHCR had not yet approved it.
UNHCR has rejected some of the plan’s provisions, according to Sharaf al-Din, including the suspension of aid to refugees.
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“UNHCR has not approved several items that have been put forward, including a request to suspend the distribution of aid,” Sharaf al-Din said.
Lebanese minister reveals details of plan to “repatriate Syrians”
Two weeks ago, Lebanon threatened that it would work to remove Syrian refugees from its territory “by legal means ” if the international community “does not cooperate to repatriate them to Syria.”
This threat appeared in a statement by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on June 20th, while he oversaw the launch of the “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2022-2023.”
Sharaf al-Din subsequently announced a plan to repatriate Syrians currently residing in Lebanon, initially based on “the repatriation of 15,000 displaced persons per month.”
Sharaf al-Din referred to “another plan to form a tripartite committee with the Syrian state and UNHCR – along with Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan – to achieve this repatriation.” However, UNCHR did not approve the committee, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday.
According to UNHCR figures, some 915,000 Syrians are registered as displaced persons in Lebanon. The largest proportion of them, at 37 percent, resides in the Bekaa region.
The authorities consider Syrian refugees to be “temporarily displaced persons,” who will eventually need to return to Syria or go to another country.
Recent political calls for the repatriation of Syrian refugees have been exacerbated by Lebanon’s severe economic crisis, which has caused the collapse of the Lebanese lira, shortages of fuel, medicines and other basic goods, and a sharp decline in citizens’ purchasing power.
Remark by the Syrian Observer: Issam Sharaf al-Din is affiliated with the pro-Syrian druze leader, Talal Arselan.
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.