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World Refugee Day highlights the perpetual instability of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

BEIRUT | - June 20, 2014, 18h14
Par Sophie Spencer
Two Syrian refugees, both children, bring water to their temporary "home" in Mount Lebanon. This photo was taken on World Refugee Day 2014, in the afternoon.
As World Refugee Day aims to draw attention to the misfortune of the world’s 50 million strong refugee population, authorities in Lebanon, the country hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees, fail to protect their interests.
Today, on World Refugee Day, the UNHCR reported that the total number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has exceeded 50 million people for the first time since World War II.

In Lebanon, which according to UNHCR statistics currently hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, including 50,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria, refugees make up around a fifth of the entire population.

The influx of Syrian refugees has been putting a strain on Lebanon’s infrastructure since fighting broke out in Syria three years ago and relations between the refugee and host community continue to deteriorate as refugee numbers increase. Tolerance and understanding from the Lebanese authorities as well as the population at large are wearing thin.

Lebanese authorities’ treatment of refugees is one of The Lebanese Centre for Human Rights’ (CLDH) major points of contention. The organization tries to prevent and document violations of refugees’ human rights and in particular to protect those who are most vulnerable such as Palestinian refugees from Syria, LGBT refugees whose rights are not recognized in Lebanon and activists and journalists who are under particular threat but who do not make complaints to the police for fear of being hassled by authorities.

On March 21st CLDH organized the ‘National Conference for the rights of the refugees from Syria, including the most vulnerable groups’. Politicians, members of civil society and the international community were in attendance to discuss crucial refugee issues. At this conference CLDH made note of a number of misconceptions and racist stereotypes voiced by politicians and members of civil society. In particular they noticed racist attitudes towards Palestinian refugees from Syria, who are the most likely to face deportation.

Since holding this conference CLDH lament that the situation has in fact deteriorated with reports of deportations of Palestinian refugees back to Syria and a formal prohibition for Palestinians from Syria to stay on Lebanese territory. There are also threats from authorities that Syrian refugees present in Lebanon will not be allowed to return to Lebanon with refugee status if they visit Syria.

Talking to, Marie Daunay, president of CLDH, criticized authorities for their attempts to make refugees’ conditions increasingly difficult with impossible bureaucratic requirements leaving some refugees no choice but to live in Lebanon illegally. She also denounced certain actions by authorities, which aggravate the tension between the refugee and host communities such as giving consent to the large scale Syrian protests on election day on June 1st. “Why did they allow demonstrations if not to increase racism in Lebanon?” she asked.

Politicians have also played their part in fuelling antagonism between the Lebanese and refugees. The foreign minister, Jebran Bassil, recently warned that the naturalization of Syrian refugees was a ‘plot’ to keep them in Lebanon for a long time. Daunay described these remarks as purely ‘political’ used to get the Lebanese population on his side and urged politicians to think of the greater human rights issues, ‘its not a political or security issue- it’s a matter of human rights and the state has to recognize these rights’ she said.

On June 26th, the international day in support of Victims of Torture, CLDH will be holding a solidarity sit-in in collaboration with other NGOs to protest the treatment of refugees and migrants detained at the General Security detention center in Adlieh. In this center refugees are subject to unacceptable conditions, which CLDH believes are illegal and tantamount to torture.
#Refugees, #Syrian_refugees, #World_refugee_day
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