Report: Foreign Ministry 'Questions' UN Agency's Work over Eviction Remarks
The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it could “re-evaluate the work of the UNHCR” after the latter’s Friday statement questioning the voluntary return of about 500 Syrian refugees back to Syria, Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on Saturday.
Human Rights Watch has also accused Lebanese municipalities of “forcing hundreds of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to leave their places of residence, and expelling them from a number of Lebanese cities and towns.”
Lebanon’s foreign ministry has “objected to the UNHCR’s statement,” considering it “discouraging the displaced from any return.” The ministry has summoned representative of the UNHCR office in Lebanon, Miri Gerard, where she met with ambassador Ghadi Khoury, Director of Political and Consular Affairs, according to the daily.
The Ministry pointed out in a statement that "Ambassador Khoury has raised the issue of the UN commission’s conduct in issuing a statement contrary to Lebanese public policy that fully conforms with humanitarian principles and international law, which requires safe and dignified return of displaced Syrians to their country.”
“The UNHCR’s statement instills fear and hesitation in the hearts of displaced Syrians who have voluntarily decided to return to their country, because the security situation in most areas of Syria allows that,” added the statement.
It emphasized that “UNHCR's statements should be consistent with the latest developments in Syria, the priorities of the Lebanese government, and the need to comply to diplomatic norms. UNHCR should refrain from issuing statements that impede the return process.”
Human Rights Watch on Friday criticised Lebanese municipalities for what it called the unjustifiable expulsion of hundreds of Syrians from their homes since 2016, one day after around 500 Syrian refugees decided to voluntarily return to Syria.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said it was aware of the returns but was not involved in the agreement, "considering the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria".
Lebanon's foreign ministry accused UNHCR of "scaring the displaced from any return at this stage because of what it sees as an unstable security situation".
It criticised the UN agency's "renewed determination to refuse any positive signs for a return... despite the security situation in many Syrian towns currently being stable."
The ministry said this had led it to "re-evaluate" and "question" the UN agency's work.
Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.