| 23 July 2024, Tuesday |

“Why do Europeans insist on not allowing return of refugees?”

Diplomatic sources in a European capital were surprised by the media frenzy and the political and populist exploitation of the decision made by the European Parliament to support keeping Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Even though Lebanon was aware of the decision before it was issued, no preemptive measures were taken to prevent its adoption. However, sources state that the decision is not new; rather, it is a recurring annual resolution issued by the European Parliament on this matter.
In any case, sources indicate that the decision holds no political or practical effect on the ground; it remains a mere stance. However, the question remains as to why the Europeans have reiterated this position on an issue that is considered essential and critical for Lebanon. Most European countries are well aware of the dangers of the presidential void and its continuation, especially taking such a stance at this timing when the Europeans consistently express their solidarity with Lebanon and their vigorous efforts to help all parties internally to put Lebanon back on the path to rescue.

According to what sources hve disclosed to “Sawt Beirut International,” the Europeans’ insistence on their position can be attributed to the following reasons:
The European Union as a whole, or its individual member states, have consistently demanded and continue to advocate for a political solution in Syria before supporting the return of refugees. They will not endorse the return as long as there is no resolution in Syria, as they do not want the Syrian population to be settled in Lebanon; rather, quite the opposite. They argue that there is a danger in repatriation, as the Syrian regime does not allow the stability of the Syrians in their core regions. Instead, there is cleansing, repression, persecution, and disappearances. An example of this is Damascus, where there is an effort to cleanse it of Sunni residents, while Alawites and Shiites are being concentrated within and around it, aiming to distribute them in a manner that suits their interests.
The European Union refuses to direct international humanitarian aid to the refugees upon their return to Syria because it sees this as indirectly contributing to the reconstruction of Syria. This, in turn, means supporting the regime, which is not what the Americans and Europeans want. Therefore, the international community still believes that there should be no return except with a political solution, and they will not participate in facilitating the return. Consequently, they have allowed humanitarian aid to be provided to the displaced people where they are, which contradicts the Lebanese perspective that advocates for assisting them on their own land.
The Europeans consider that the Arab normalization with the Syrian regime occurred without the Arabs gaining anything substantial in return, except for the illusion of a roadmap with the regime, the implementation of which is uncertain. The Europeans and Americans advised the Arabs to secure something substantial from the regime before starting any normalization or engagement with it. According to the sources, this has not materialized.
The West hopes that the Arab countries do not fund the reconstruction of Syria because the regime will benefit from this step if it happens without the regime providing anything in return. The regime may revert to its old behavior with the Arabs. The West, having seen the regime gain on the ground due to Russian support, is no longer in a hurry to pursue a political solution in Syria and continues to manipulate the issue of the new constitution. The West does not want to lose the leverage of withholding support from the regime, including reconstruction and conditions for the return of refugees, to pressure the regime into engaging seriously in the political solution. So far, the regime does not show genuine willingness in that regard. However, Lebanon pays the price for keeping the refugees on its land and its inability to bear the various burdens they bring. The situation has become a subject of international-Lebanese political tug-of-war, and its danger extends beyond continued displacement to prolonged stay and the risks associated with it.

  • Sawt Beirut International