EU, U.N. Deny Refugee 'Naturalization' Claims after Lebanon Uproarإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Responding to an outcry in Lebanon over a statement issued during the Brussels conference on Syria, the EU Delegation to Lebanon and the U.N. Resident Coordinator Office in Lebanon reiterated Friday that “there has been no change in the position of the international community” regarding the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“The EU and the U.N. view the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon as temporary. Solutions being sought for refugees are outside Lebanon. Moreover, participation in the labor market can only take place in accordance with Lebanese law,” they said in a statement.
“Lebanese media on 26 April 2018 noted a paragraph in the co-chairs declaration of the Conference which expressed 'the need to ensure that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, informed, temporary, voluntary in nature and a solution of last resort including the destination of their choice, the right to return and the choice to stay, as per international humanitarian law.' This paragraph relates to the situation of populations affected by the conflict within Syria, it does not pertain to Lebanon and does not relate to refugees,” the EU and the U.N. said in a joint statement.
They also emphasized that they “remain fully engaged, in a spirit of partnership, in supporting Lebanon to address the challenges and will continue to provide substantial support.”
President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil had on Thursday issued stern warnings over the Brussels statement.
Aoun said the statement contained a call for “veiled naturalization” as Berri warned that it reflected intentions to “naturalize” Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to “fragment” Syria.
Bassil for his part said the international community “must stop encouraging Syrians to stay in Lebanon.”
“What's new today is the call for a voluntary and temporary return while giving them the choice to stay in Lebanon,” the minister warned.
Aoun meanwhile said he especially rejects the terms “voluntary repatriation”, “temporary” evacuation, “the choice to stay” and “integration into labor markets”.
The declaration of the co-chairs of the Brussels conference -- the U.N. and the EU – said “particular concerns were noted over the escalation of fighting and dramatic humanitarian situation still faced by civilians in many parts of Syria.”
“The Conference stressed the need to ensure that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, informed, temporary, voluntary in nature and a solution of last resort including the destination of their choice, the right to return and the choice to stay,” the statement added in the same paragraph, apparently referring to the evacuation of civilians inside Syria.
“Participants agreed that present conditions are not conducive for voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity. Significant risks remain for civilians across the country as the situation remains characterized by continued fighting and displacement, with 2.6 million people displaced in 2017 alone,” the statement added.
“Conditions for returns, as defined by the UNHCR and according to international refugee law standards, are not yet fulfilled. Any organized return should be voluntary and in safety and dignity,” it said.