Damascus Rejects Lebanese State's Decision against Syrian Refugees

The Syrian Embassy in Lebanon rejected in a letter of protest the measures taken by the government against the Syrian refugees, As Safir newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Diplomatic sources told the newspaper that the “retaliatory measures” taken by the Lebanese state increased “sympathy” with the Syrian regime.

“If the Syrian government was to choose between guaranteeing 50,000 votes to President Bashar Assad and any other candidate or guaranteeing the safety of the refugees, who were forced to head to Lebanon... We would prefer the second choice,” the sources said.

They pointed out that the Syrian authorities facilitated the movement of Lebanese, Arab and international media outlets that will cover the Syrian elections, especially, along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

“The (Syrian) government gave clear orders to facilitate the movement from and to Syria through the four main legal border crossings... Those who are heading to vote will be exempted from the transportation fees,” the diplomatic sources added.

The Syrian sources revealed that a group of refugees in northern Lebanon were threatened, slamming such endeavors.

“The dignities of people shouldn't be defamed for thirty dollars per month,” the sources said.

Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced on Saturday that Syrian refugees in Lebanon will lose their status as such if they return home for a visit.

More than a million Syrians have fled their war-torn country for Lebanon in the past three years, according to the United Nations.

"Syrian displaced people who are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees are requested to refrain from entering into Syria starting June 1, 2014, or be penalized by losing their status as refugees in Lebanon," said the interior ministry.

The statement, published by the National News Agency, said the measure is grounded "in a concern for security in Lebanon and the relationship between Syrian displaced and Lebanese nationals... and in a bid to prevent any friction between them."

The decision, which took effect Sunday, was issued two days after tens of thousands of Syrians flocked to their Beirut embassy to vote in the election.

A Lebanese security source told As Safir daily that security agencies boosted their measures along the border with Syria.

“More than 500 general security members, assisted by 25 officers, were distributed on the four legal crossings.”

The source said that the numbers of Syrian refugees “crossing the border decreased after the Interior Ministry's decision.”

The refugee influx into Lebanon has burdened the country's weak economy, with politicians on all sides calling for measures to limit the flow.

Lebanon has not signed the Convention on Refugees, and refers to Syrians forced out of their country by war as "displaced."

The authorities say the actual number of Syrians in Lebanon is far higher than the nearly 1.1 million accounted for by UNHCR.

Lebanon has frequently complained it lacks the necessary resources to cope with them, and that the labor market is struggling to accommodate them.



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