Lebanon has received a response from the United Nations (UN) rejecting a plan to repatriate Syrian refugees, days after announcing its plan to repatriate 15,000 displaced people per month.
“UNHCR has given a preliminary response rejecting the return of displaced persons to Syria,” Lebanese Minister of Displaced Persons Essam Sharafeddine said in a press statement.
“We have a bilateral agreement in place between Lebanon and Syria and, if it receives approval from UNHCR, there will be advantages. Talks are ongoing.”
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The Lebanese minister spoke about the agreement to form a Lebanese-Syrian committee, which will coordinate the nature of the relationship and determine for each refugee whether he is a displaced person or a political refugee. Sharafeddine added that Lebanon had “asked UNHCR to pay financial and in-kind assistance on Syrian territory, which was rejected by UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, Ayaki Ito.”
Over the past few days, Lebanese officials’ statements on the issue of Syrian refugees have escalated after Sharafeddine published details of a “plan” that his government is working on.
On Tuesday, the Lebanese official spoke of a plan based primarily on “the return of 15,000 displaced persons per month.”
Sharafeddine referred to suggestions made to UNHCR Regional Director Ito, who promised to “review his proposal and respond in writing.”
Sharafeddine also noted another plan to form a tripartite committee with the Syrian state and UNHCR, alongside Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, to achieve the repatriation.”
According to UNHCR figures, some 915,000 registered displaced Syrians live in Lebanon, with the largest proportion (37 percent) living in the Bekaa region.
In terms of refugees, Lebanon is one of the smallest host countries compared with one of the world’s largest refugee populations.
However, the authorities refuse to formally recognize these Syrians as refugees and asylum-seekers, claiming that Lebanon is not a party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
The authorities consider Syrian refugees to be “temporarily displaced persons” who will at some point return home or need to leave for a third country.
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.