Syrian refugee controversy: Gebran Bassil sparks debate over entry approvals

News Bulletin Reports
2023-08-16 | 09:45
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Syrian refugee controversy: Gebran Bassil sparks debate over entry approvals
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Syrian refugee controversy: Gebran Bassil sparks debate over entry approvals

In a post by the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, he stated that 109 Syrians arrived from Cyprus to Lebanon despite the lack of approval from the government, as well as the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, defense, and General Security.

Bassil questioned who approved their entry while "we are struggling to repatriate refugees to Syria, fighting Europe and the whole world for their return." 

He also questioned who would dare to make an agreement with a European country to repatriate some of them to Lebanon.

Bassil added, "No one should tell us that they were transferred to the Syrian borders, as we know well the story of thousands of Syrians infiltrating into Lebanon through illegal crossings, and how they are returned to the borders by the security forces, then re-entered by smuggling networks. We also hear about significant sums of money and trafficking. This is a crime against the country, and its perpetrators are responsible for its security."

According to LBCI's sources, the number mentioned by Bassil was returned to Lebanon in two batches.

On July 30 and August 3, three Cypriot boats returned 109 illegal migrants. On July 30, two Cypriot boats returned 73 migrants; on August 3, 36 were returned. 

The Lebanese Navy monitored them upon their arrival in Beirut, and the International Organization for Migration took care of them at the arrival point. They were then interrogated by the army, some of whom were arrested. Most of the Syrians were then deported to the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The Cypriot government considers these return operations to be legal in line with the bilateral agreement signed between Cyprus and Lebanon in 2004. The Cypriot authorities believe Lebanon must stop illegal migration from its territories.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) in Cyprus considers that deportation and transfer operations between countries "without legal and procedural guarantees for individuals who may need international protection" conflict with international law and European law.

The Lebanese Army and the Lebanese General Security both declined to comment. It's worth noting that an official Cypriot delegation visited Lebanon last month to discuss the issue of illegal migration boats departing from Lebanon and met with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other officials.

In this context, it's essential to mention that the route of illegal migration between Lebanon, specifically from the northern coasts to Cyprus, is highly active. 

Several boats have departed carrying Syrian refugees, arriving at Cypriot shores. The boat journey usually carries around 25 passengers and takes approximately 12 hours. Each refugee pays smugglers around $2000. Some boats have even reached Cyprus directly from the coast of Tartus.
 

Lebanon News

News Bulletin Reports

Lebanon

Free Patriotic Movement

Gebran Bassil

Syrian

Refugees

Migrants

Cyprus

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