Political and popular campaigns against the growing presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are exacerbating, amid demands to return them to their homeland and counter international community claims that their return is not yet safe to their war-torn country.
Lebanon’s army has taken security measures on the border with Syria to prevent the illegal entry of refugees.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi gave the “green light” on Wednesday to the municipalities to “stop the illegal presence of refugees”, vowing accountability.
After a meeting with mayors and governors, Mawlawi said in a press conference that “a large number of different kinds of crimes are committed by the Syrians in Lebanon”.
He said more than 30% of the total crimes are committed by Syrians, including theft, car stealing, kidnapping, manslaughter, drug smuggling, human trafficking, counterfeit, sexual harassment, etc. “This requires cooperation in order for us to preserve the image of our country”, he said.
The Syrian presence in Lebanon “is causing massive damage to this country, its identity and future”, added Mawlawi.
The Minister stated that Lebanon will accept no assistance whatsoever with the aim of making it turn a blind eye on the illegal entry of refugees. “…Lebanon is not for sale”, he said.
Lebanon is home to some 800,000 Syrians registered with the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) who have fled since the war erupted in 2011.
Lebanese authorities say the real number of Syrians in their country is 2 million.
The international community says the return of refugees is not yet safe to their war-ravaged country. Relatives and rights advocates say that deported refugees are subject to forced conscription upon return to their homeland.