A Syrian boy looks out of a tent in a camp for displaced Syrians in the town of Ketermaya, Lebanon, July 15, 2023. (Photo by Ali Hashisho/Xinhua)
BEIRUT, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Sitting in the shade of a lush tree in the Bar Elias camp of Lebanon's eastern Bekaa region, a group of displaced Syrians is discussing their deportation to homeland under local initiatives.
With a tense look on his face, Jassem Abu al-Awaili, a 50-year-old Syrian who oversees the camp's affairs, said the refugees are bewildered and mentally exhausted as the requirement for their deportation comes at a time when most of them are unemployed and facing soaring prices and shrinking international aid.
When asked why Syrian refugees are reluctant to go back home, Jaber Abu Al-Alawi, another Syrian who handles affairs in the Faraoun camp of eastern Lebanon, said the displaced people are afraid of the security situation in their home country, the lack of job opportunities, the high cost of living, the collapse of the Syrian currency, and the absence of essential services.
Syrian boys play in a camp for the displaced Syrians in the town of Ketermaya, Lebanon, July 15, 2023. (Photo by Ali Hashisho/Xinhua)
However, even if they are reluctant to leave, the Syrian refugees face many problems in Lebanon.
"Refugees are always on alert, especially when they go to workplace, where hate speech has become a trend among the Lebanese," said Jassem al-Saidi, a Syrian refugee in Marj al-Khoukh camp in southern Lebanon.
"Some consider us as criminals or terrorists, which is why we prefer to stay in our camps," said al-Saidi, who dreams of returning to his homeland but hesitates to do so because he cannot afford to repair his war-torn house.
Photo taken on Sept. 21, 2021 shows a scene inside Burj Barajneh refugee camp, south of Beirut, Lebanon. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)
Meanwhile, under the direction of the Lebanese Ministry of Interior, Lebanon's municipalities have taken measures to identify Syrian refugees and their families in every town, singling out those who do not have official residence permits, while military agencies have periodically conducted raids to arrest those who enter Lebanon surreptitiously.
Lebanese Internal Security Forces sources told Xinhua on August 18 that around 51 percent of the Syrian refugees do not have identity cards, while many have long-expired official residence permits that they deliberately left unrenewed to avoid paying fees.
Syrian refugees are seen after a fire engulfed a refugee camp in the al-Miniyeh area in northern Lebanon, on Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Khalid/Xinhua)
Lebanon's Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine told Xinhua over the phone on Saturday that it is against Lebanon's law for refugees to enter and remain in Lebanon without authorization.
Charafeddine highlighted the economic, environmental, educational, security, and social impact that Syrian refugees have on Lebanon.
"It has costed Lebanon around 40 billion U.S. dollars so far to host this big number of refugees in terms of electricity, medicine, and water consumption, while the country's economy is already in a dire situation," he said.
To ensure Syrian refugees' return to their home country, Lebanon and Syrian authorities have already agreed to handle refugee cases separately while ensuring the protection of the refugees upon their return to Syria, said Charafeddine.
"Refugees who escaped military services, those who are facing lawsuits, and those who worked against the Syrian regime can all sort their issues safely without being prosecuted as agreed with Syrian authorities, so there is no reason for them to stay in Lebanon," Charafeddine said, adding that Syrian authorities would offer all needed facilities including shelters and opportunities for employment.
Hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita. ■