Central Security Council Asks General Security to Devise Refugee Entry Mechanism amid Outcry

The Central Security Council on Tuesday asked the General Directorate of General Security to devise a mechanism that would organize the entry of Syrian and Palestinian refugees from Syria into Lebanon, amid criticism by the U.N. and a rights watchdog over a recent incident.

“The council discussed the access of Syrian citizens and Syria-based Palestinian refugees into Lebanon by land and air, stressing that there is no resolution that totally prevents their entry and that the borders are not closed in their face,” state-run National News Agency said.

The conferees also tackled the measures that were taken last weekend against a number of Syrian and Palestinian citizens who sought to transit from Lebanon into Arab states.

The council noted that they were deported for possessing fake travel papers, describing their behavior as a “criminal offense.”

During the meeting, “the General Directorate of General Security was asked to suggest a mechanism that would regulate the entry of Syrians and Syria-based Palestinian refugees into Lebanon according to clear standards,” NNA said.

It added that the sought-after mechanism will be referred to cabinet for discussion and approval.

Earlier on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch and a U.N. refugee agency expressed concern that Lebanon was blocking Palestinians fleeing Syria from entering the country.

UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said it was "concerned about the increased restrictions on Palestine refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria from entering Lebanon."

"We are monitoring the situation on the border carefully and have been given assurances by the Lebanese authorities that these restrictions are temporary," said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness in a statement.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, criticized Lebanon for refusing entry to Palestinians from Syria and returning them to the war-torn country.

HRW accused Lebanese authorities of "arbitrarily" denying entry and documented the deportation of around 40 Palestinians accused of having forged documents.

Lebanon has not announced a blanket ban on the entry of Palestinians from Syria, but government sources have confirmed a general policy to keep out Palestinians fleeing the conflict.

Speaking to Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity, one source said the government felt Palestinian refugees registered in Syria should stay there, pointing out Lebanon already has more than one million Syrian refugees.

But HRW said the Lebanese government was violating international law by sending civilians back to an active war zone.

"The Lebanese government should urgently rescind its decision to bar Palestinians from Syria from entering Lebanon," the group said in a statement.

"Lebanon is turning people back without adequately considering the dangers they face," the New York-based organization added.

The group said the Palestinians seeking to enter Lebanon from a crossing with Syria had been "arbitrarily denied entry" over the weekend.

At the same time, a General Security official told AFP that 41 people, many of them Palestinians, were returned to Syria after they were caught trying to fly out from Beirut airport using fake visas.

"Eight were allowed to stay because they have Palestinian Lebanese relatives here, or other documentation that allows them to be here," said the official.

Among the more than one million refugees from Syria registered in Lebanon are around 52,000 Palestinian Syrians.

Once numbering 500,000 in Syria, Palestinians have been targeted by both sides in the war, making them one of the country's most vulnerable groups, rights groups say.

But Lebanon is also home to around 422,000 Palestinian refugees, whose presence in the country remains a source of tension.

Unlike Jordan and Turkey, which also host a large number of Syrian refugees, Lebanon refuses to set up camps for people fleeing Syria's war.

Some politicians have cited the semi-permanent status of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon dating back to the 1948 creation of Israel as the reason why Lebanon does not want more camps.

The international community has praised Lebanon, which has a population of just four million, for absorbing so many of those fleeing Syria.

And while HRW criticized Lebanon for returning Palestinian refugees to Syria, the group urged foreign governments to better assist Beirut in hosting refugees.

"The Lebanese government is bearing an incomparable burden with the Syrian refugees crossing its borders, but blocking Palestinians from Syria is mishandling the situation," HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director Joe Stork said.



Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

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