The second trip in a week.. Dozens of refugees return from Lebanon to Syria

Dozens of Syrian refugees returned to their country today, Saturday, from Lebanon in Second convoy in less than two weeks, Amid Lebanese efforts to organize a mass return of refugees to the war-torn country.

The official Lebanese National News Agency said: voluntary return Saturday included 330 Syrians who left the Bekaa Valley for the Qalamoun region in western Syria. Qalamoun lies on the border with Lebanon and has for years witnessed some of the worst fighting in the 11-year Syrian conflict.

Some 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, decided to return home after being affected by the country’s three-year historical economic collapse that has thrown three-quarters of the Lebanese into poverty.

A convoy of refugees set off on October 26 from Lebanon to Syria

A convoy of refugees set off on October 26 from Lebanon to Syria

Since the start of the economic crisis in late 2019, some Lebanese politicians have blamed refugees for the crisis.

Lebanon has provided shelter to more than a million Syrian refugees, but many claim the number is much higher. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees registered about 825,000 Syrians, but stopped counting in 2015 at the request of the Lebanese authorities.

Earlier this year, officials announced a plan to repatriate 15,000 refugees per month, which has yet to materialize.

In 2018, Lebanon began organizing “voluntary return” trips. Syrians would register to return, and the list would then be run by Syrian security officials to see if individuals 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.

The returnees represent a small part of the huge number of refugees who remain in Lebanon, where the United Nations confirms that Syria is not a safe place for a mass return.

A convoy of refugees set off on October 26 from Lebanon to Syria

A convoy of refugees set off on October 26 from Lebanon to Syria

For his part, Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Hector Hajjar told reporters near the Syrian border, on Saturday, that the returnees had received guarantees from the Lebanese and Syrian authorities to return. He added that the international community should encourage such a return, and if not, they should “be impartial in this case.”

Return flights were halted in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. By that time, about 21,000 refugees to Syria had returned from Lebanon in this way, according to Lebanese officials.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says at least 76,500 Syrian refugees have voluntarily returned from Lebanon since 2016, some on government-organised trips and others on their own.

The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

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