Dozens of Syrian refugees returned to their country on Saturday, coming from Lebanon with the second convoy in less than two weeks, amid Lebanese efforts to organize a mass repatriation of refugees to the war-torn country.
The official Lebanese national news agency said Saturday’s “voluntary return” included 330 Syrians who left the Bekaa Valley for the Qalamoun region in western Syria. Qalamoun is located on the border with Lebanon and has witnessed some of the worst fighting of the 11-year Syrian conflict for years.
About 500 Syrian refugees left Lebanon for Syria on October 26, becoming the first group to return home in more than two years.
Many Syrian refugees, after living for years in Lebanon, they decided to return home after being hit by the country’s historic economic collapse, which lasted three years, which threw three quarters of Lebanese into poverty.
Since the start of the economic crisis at the end of 2019, some Lebanese politicians have blamed refugees for the crisis.
Lebanon has provided shelter to over a million Syrian refugees, but many say the number is much higher. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees registered around 825,000 Syrians, but stopped counting in 2015 at the request of the Lebanese authorities.
At the beginning of questyear, officials announced a plan to repatriate 15,000 refugees per month, which has yet to materialize.
In 2018, Lebanon began organizing “voluntary return” trips. The Syrians would register to return and the list would then be handled by Syrian security officials to see if the people on the list were wanted or posed a security threat to Damascus. Some of these names were rejected and the original list was reduced to the final names.
Returnees represent a small part of the huge number of refugees that remain in Lebanon, where the United Nations stresses that Syria is not a safe place for mass repatriation.
For his part, Lebanese Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar told reporters near the Syrian border on Saturday that the returnees had received guarantees of return from the Lebanese and Syrian authorities. He added that the international community should encourage a tale return and, in if not, it should “be impartial in this case “.
Return flights were interrupted in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. At that point, according to Lebanese officials, about 21,000 refugees in Syria had returned from Lebanon in this way.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says at least 76,500 Syrian refugees have returned voluntarily from Lebanon since 2016, some on government-organized trips and others on their own.
The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
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