Lebanese interior minister calls for limiting Syrian presence

Lebanese Interior Minister in the caretaker government, Bassam Mawlawi (MTV)

Lebanese Interior Minister in the caretaker government, Bassam Mawlawi (MTV)

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The Lebanese Interior Minister in the caretaker government, Bassam Mawlawi, called for limiting the Syrian presence in Lebanon, emphasizing the need to strictly enforce Lebanese laws on Syrian refugees.

During an extraordinary meeting of the Lebanese Central Security Council, Mawlawi said that the proportion of detained Syrians in Lebanese prisons is almost 35%, according to Lebanese media outlets, including MTV channel.

He stated the Syrian presence in this manner is “unacceptable” and is something Lebanon cannot bear, and must be clearly reduced. Mawlawi asserted that Lebanon would not accept the Syrians remaining on its territory in exchange for financial gains.

In response to the statements of the Lebanese Minister of the Displaced, Issam Sharaf El-Din, which referred to the presence of 20,000 armed individuals inside the camps, Mawlawi said, “I don’t know if he counted them, the security forces have all the information regarding the camps.”

Mawlawi’s statements came during an extraordinary meeting following the murder of a coordinator in the Lebanese Forces party, Pascal Salameh, nearly 24 hours after his kidnapping was announced.

For its part, the Lebanese army announced yesterday, Monday, that it has arrested “most members of the Syrian gang involved in the kidnapping operation,” while the Lebanese interior minister called for prudence and reliance on the security and judicial authorities, explaining that investigations had begun and the security and military forces were coordinating with each other.

Lebanese officials often exploit political events and economic conditions in Lebanon to keep demanding the return of Syrian refugees to their country, despite UN and international reports confirming that Syria is an unsafe country, along with the pressures faced by refugees in Lebanon on various levels.

Increase in arrests of Syrians

At the end of January, Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR) observed an increase in cases of arbitrary detention of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, exposing them to the risks of torture and forced deportation.

According to the center’s report on the most prominent violations suffered by Syrians in Lebanon during 2023, the number of Syrian refugees who were detained for forced deportation reached 1,080 individuals. The report attributed the responsibility of arresting 223 persons to the intelligence of the Lebanese army, and the General Security for the arrest of 33 individuals.

The Lebanese Minister for the Displaced said in July 2023, that “the Syrian state” is ready to receive 180,000 refugees in a first phase, followed by batches of 15,000 refugees monthly, referring to what he considered “facilitations” in this regard. However, this statement contradicts the remarks made by the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, in August of the same year.

Al-Assad then renewed his linkage of the return of Syrian refugees to the deteriorating reality in the areas under his control, denying the imprisonment of any person out of less than half a million Syrians who have returned over the past years, despite Arab demands within the “Jordanian Initiative” that focus on the need to obtain guarantees for the refugees’ return, along with media and human rights reports about Syrians who were arrested upon returning to areas under regime control.

In Lebanon, there are about 785,000 Syrian refugees, referred to by the authorities as “displaced”, according to United Nations data.

 

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