Is Lebanon imposing entrance fees on Syrians crossing border?
Lebanon has imposed fees on those coming into its territory through the Syrian-Lebanese border, according to local pages on social media and Syrian media outlets.
Local pages reported that the Lebanese General Security imposed fees on Syrians coming to Lebanon to visit embassies or those holding electronic visas without an official announcement. The amount is 4.9 million Lebanese pounds, approximately 54.8 US dollars according to the black market exchange rate.
Syrian newspaper Al-Watan stated, on February 7, that the Lebanese General Security imposed a fee of 60 US dollars on a category of people coming to Lebanon who have appointments at some embassies or hold electronic visas.
Enab Baladi contacted four offices specializing in transporting Syrians from Syria to Lebanon and was informed that the decision is not new. The Lebanese border points charge about 60 dollars from those wishing to enter for an embassy appointment.
However, the decision does not include Syrians who have a name listed at the Lebanese border, as certain embassies send the names of individuals who have appointments to the border security to allow their free entry.
In cases where no name is listed, the individual with the appointment must issue a telegram that costs 4.9 million Lebanese pounds plus photography fees totaling 5.1 million, which is about 57 US dollars.
Embassies sending names
Most embassies in Syria have closed since 2012, and some have moved to Lebanon, making it a primary destination for Syrians to attend their appointments with foreign and Arab embassies.
Since the German embassy in Damascus closed, residents in Syria have had to submit applications for long-term visas or visit visas according to German residence law at one of the visa divisions in the German embassies in Jordan, Baghdad, Beirut, Riyadh, Kuwait, Tehran, and at the general consulates in Jeddah, Erbil, and Istanbul.
The same applies to other embassies, which Syrians have to approach for immigration interviews or to obtain a travel visa to visit relatives living outside of Syria.
The offices of German, Turkish, and Austrian embassies send the names of Syrians who have appointments at the embassy to the Lebanese border points, allowing them to enter Lebanese territory without paying fees or issuing telegrams.
For other foreign and Arab embassies, for example, Egypt, the UAE, the USA, and any embassy that gives appointments through “TLS”, “BLS”, or “VFS” offices, do not send any names to the Lebanese border points and those wishing to enter Lebanon pay 4.9 million Lebanese pounds as an official “routine procedure”.
“TLS” is an external agency office for receiving visa application files for those wishing to travel to France, the “BLS” office is for those looking to travel to Spain, and “VFS” is for those wanting to go to Canada.
The local newspaper Al-Watan reported from an employee at the Lebanese border that the process of verifying the appointment requires communications and working staff, stressing that the purpose of the fee is to compensate for the losses resulting from these communications and paperwork.
Enab Baladi inquired as a Syrian citizen from the General Security Directorate in Beirut, and one of the officers stated that there should not be any fees for Syrians to enter, whether or not embassies send the names of the individuals with appointments.
He added that the entry of Syrians who do not have a name listed at the border points depends on their “luck”, as some officers allow them in and others do not without the embassy sending the name of the appointment holder to the border point.
Enab Baladi also reached out to the directorate via email to obtain official information about the imposition of fees but had not received a response at the time this report was published.
Through its website, the General Directorate of Lebanese General Security grants a 48-hour entry permit with a departure certificate for Syrians wishing to enter Lebanese territory to visit a foreign embassy, provided they have a valid passport and proof of an appointment.
Entry is limited to the names received from foreign embassies to the directorate, circulated at the land border points, and restricted between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The directorate also grants a one-week entry permit with a departure certificate exclusively through the Masnaa and al-Aboudiyeh border centers, provided there is a valid passport and verification that the Syrian wishing to enter Lebanon to visit the Saudi embassy possesses the required documents.
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