On Wednesday 10.5.2023, the Lebanese army resumed its random arrests of Syrian refugees, although it had previously stated it would cease arrests and deportation, allowing Syrians with expired residencies to settle their status. General Security had given Syrian offenders till the end of June to complete their paperwork.
Sources told Megaphone that the army arrested over 46 Syrians in the area of Bekaa yesterday evening, and took them in an unknown direction. At least 10 of the Syrians are from the town of Ghazzeh in West Bekaa, and three are from the town of Shmistar. It has yet to be confirmed whether these refugees have been deported, as was the case in previous arrest campaigns.
Recent arrests have disrupted the economic cycle in several Bekaa towns, which depend on Syrian labor for agriculture and trade, after most Syrian workers went into hiding. This led the Lebanese army to temporarily freeze its campaign, under pressure from traders and the residents of Bekaa towns, before resuming it yesterday without explanation.
The Lebanese army has dropped off Syrians it detained in previous campaigns in remote border areas, forcing them to choose between coming back to Lebanon through smuggling routes, or surrendering to the Syrian army’s Fourth Division. This makes many refugees vulnerable to extortion by smuggling gangs, given the risks surrounding their surrender to the Fourth Division.
The arrest and deportation of Syrian refugees has been going on since the beginning of April unseen by the media, and without observing legal or ethical standards that govern the treatment of detainees.
A report by international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, reveals that several deportees were arrested by Syrian regime forces, and their fate remains unknown to this day. Some of the deportees were registered as refugees with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but were not granted the right to contact a lawyer or UNHCR representative before being deported.
The figures obtained from humanitarian organizations following the case show that at least 712 Syrians have been deported, following 88 raids that included many refugee camps.
We recall that our duty today is to confront structural racism and forced deportation. Rejecting the sponsorship system based on the brutal exploitation of migrant workers, led by Syrian workers, exposing any attempt to commodify suffering, renew old alliances and profit from the deportation of thousands of refugees, today we must fight with and for the refugees and their right to a decent life anywhere they choose.
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