In response to requests for protests from Syrian refugees, the Lebanese army mobilizes
Najib Mikati, the interim prime minister of Lebanon, claimed on Wednesday that criminal gangs were bringing Syrian migrants into his country illegally through the Bekaa or Akkar in exchange for enormous sums of money, “while the country can no longer bear the burden of refugees.”
Mikati expressed surprise at the criticism leveled at Lebanon for expelling unlawfully entering Syrians. International protests were aroused by the announcement of the deportation of some 50 Syrians from Lebanon to Syria two weeks ago.
“The UNHCR has noticed an increase in the number of raids on Syrian (refugee camps) in both Mount Lebanon and the north,” said Lisa Abou Khaled, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to Arab News. “As of April, the UNHCR has confirmed at least 13 raids and has received reports of Syrians being detained for future deportation, including those who are known to and registered with the UNHCR.”
Lebanese municipalities have begun surveys and inspections to track down refugees and limit their movement within the cities where they live.
An unregistered Syrian refugee attacked a police officer on Tuesday night in the southern Lebanon town of Al-Qlayaa. While the police detained the refugee and began an investigation into the incident, the officer was brought to the hospital.
In a video sent to social media, Syrian opposition leader Kamal Labwani threatened the Lebanese army and urged refugees to arm themselves for protection.
In anticipation of the protest and to break up any fights, the Lebanese army, along with its intelligence, internal security forces, and riot control units, stationed around the UNHCR headquarters on Wednesday.
In a letter to the internal security forces on Tuesday night, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi urged them “to prevent protests by Syrian refugees and counter Lebanese protests.”
Security agency heads attended a cabinet meeting on the Syrian refugee issue on Wednesday, which Mikati presided over. In the conference, it was confirmed that Lebanon has the authority to take “measures previously taken by the Higher Defense Council in 2019 against violators who enter Lebanon illegally and without official and legal documents.”
The participants urged that the UNHCR “within a deadline of one week from the date of the meeting, provide the Ministry of Interior with data on Syrian refugees in all their forms” and “that the status of refugee be dropped for anyone who leaves Lebanese territory.”
The speakers stressed the importance of “registering the births of Syrians on Lebanese territory in coordination with UNHCR.”
They underlined their request that other nations “share the burden of hosting Syrian refugees, particularly given the growing refugee population and the deepening economic crisis.”