NNA - Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Gebran Bassil, on Friday instructed the Protocol Directorate to suspend the residency requests submitted to the Ministry by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon, pending further instructions.
The Minister’s decision comes against the backdrop of a report submitted by a mission he had tasked to visit Arsal yesterday. The mission had interviewed a group of Syrian refugees — who voluntarily decided to return to Syria — and discovered that they had been being discouraged by UNHCR staff to return to their homeland.
The report explains further that the UNHCR staff would intimidate refugees by means of telling them things that raised doubts and sparked horror concerning their return to Syria, such as being forced to undergo military service, the shaky security situation, and the poor housing and living conditions. The refugees said that the UNHCR staff had also warned them that U.N. assistance and services would be halted once they were back in Syria, and had shared with them other intimidating information that would change their mind about returning back home.
Bassil’s new measures tackling the matter come after several alerts from the Ministry, addressed directly to the UNHCR director in Beirut, Ms. Mireille Girard, who had been summoned twice to the Foreign Ministry and alerted about this policy, and following direct correspondence from Minister Bassil to the U.N. Secretary-General and the UNHCR, but to no avail.
In addition, Minister Basil requested a study of other measures that could be adopted against the UNHCR if it continues the adoption of its intimidating policy against Syrian refugees in Lebanon.