BEIRUT, Lebanon: Urging authorities to “immediately” halt the expulsions, Amnesty International has said almost 2,500 Syrian refugees have been deported from Lebanon to their war-torn country over the past three months.
In a statement on Tuesday, Amnesty International cited data from Lebanon’s General Security agency and the Lebanese government which that about 2,447 Syrians had been expelled between mid-May and August 9.
General Security on May 13 started implementing an order from Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council to deport refugees who had entered the country irregularly after April 2019, it said. It was not immediately clear whether all those expelled had entered as such.
“We urge the Lebanese authorities to stop these deportations as a matter of urgency,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director.
Any attempt to forcibly return refugees is “a clear violation of Lebanon’s non-refoulement obligations”, she added.
Non-refoulement is a principle of international law that bars governments from deporting people to countries where they would face persecution.
There was no immediate comment by Lebanese authorities.
Lebanon, a country of about 4.5 million people, says it hosts about 1.5 million Syrians, of which nearly a million are UN-registered refugees.
Lebanese politicians routinely blame the country’s economic and other woes on Syrian refugees and the government has ratcheted up the pressure to send them back. In recent weeks, the labour ministry launched a crackdown on foreign workers without a permit, a move activists say is part of a campaign directed at Syrian refugees to force them to return home.
Last month, Human Rights Watch said the order applied to around 3,600 families in the eastern region of Arsal.
The demolition order is based on the 2004 Lebanese Construction Law Act, which NGOs that have long operated in the camps say that it has rarely, if ever, been enforced.