No Protection, No Rights
SNHR has released a detailed report entitled: “No Protection, No Rights” which sheds light on a number of various aspects in the lives of the Syrian refugees living in Lebanon through interviews with refugees and Syrian activists in Lebanon.
The report says that amid the shelling, massacres, the bombardment by warplanes that destroys building and shops, and many others forms of violations that the Syrian people suffered from, The Syrian people was torn apart, where more than half found no choice but displacement and refuge. The neighboring countries took in the majority of the refugees. And with the overlapping of Syrian and Lebanon lands and borders, and kinship ties, hundreds of thousands of Syrians fled to Lebanon, to which we are indebted for taking in huge numbers despite the limited resources and small area. Currently, about 1.7 million Syrian refugee are living in Lebanon
The report notes that the Lebanese authorities didn’t anticipate this overwhelmingly immense influx of refugees, and was unable, or unwilling, to develop a response plan for those refugees. On the contrary, the Lebanese authorities adopted laws that complicated the crisis, and incorporated many procedures that limited the influx of Syrians into Lebanon. Also, Lebanon imposed very difficult requirements for a residency, such as the costly fees, and a mandatory Lebanese sponsor. The vast majority of Syrians couldn’t meet these requirements.
The report says that the procedures carried out by the Lebanese authorities have made Syrian refugees lose their legal status in Lebanon, and, thus, they became marginalized, exploited in work, and subject to ill-treatment and sexual harassment in some cases. Additionally, Syrians can’t go to police or security in case they were abused, as they lost all forms of protection, which made securing the most basic needs for surviving a very hefty challenge.
The report sheds light on the ramifications following the UNHCR stopping registering new Syrian refugees as per a request by the government of the prime minister Najib Miqati according to their representatives in Lebanon. Since that decision was announced, the consequences were catastrophic on every social and economic level, especially that Syrian refugees use Lebanon as a crossing to seek asylum in Europe legally via the UNHCR. However, if a refugee is not registered anymore, this makes him ineligible for this right. Also, he will be denied the aids and protection provided by the UNHCR making him vulnerable to exploitation and various forms of violations.
The report also addresses the residency requirements in Lebanon, which were a reason for prosecution against Syrian refugees that manifested itself in various forms such as exploitation of labor, sexual exploitation, racism, deprivation of judicial protection, deprivation of health care, deprivation of education, begging and child labor, and the thousands of unregistered newborns in addition to the consequences of the absence of official camps.
The report sheds light on the most recent decree that was issued by the Lebanese authorities in February 2017, calling it a decree with limited powers, where it excludes anyone who entered Lebanese illegally, which comprises a large section of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, even though the decree might be relevant to a great segment of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Furthermore, the report highlights the increasing rates of arbitrary arrests by the Lebanese security forces on Syrian refugees with the beginning of 2016. The arrests were concentrated in Tripoli, Arsal, and Beirut, which reflected on the economic and social aspects of the Syrians’ lives, as they feel forced to limit their movement, stop working, and be careful when walking in the streets, markets, or outside camps as a precaution to protect themselves from being arrested and maybe getting banished to Syria.
The report records that no less than 56 Syrian detainees were extradited to the Military Intelligence in Syria from the beginning of 2013 until the end of 2016. Additionally, between May 2011 and December 2016, no less than 108 Syrian refugees were abducted by unidentified groups, either for ransom money or to hand them to the Syrian regime.
The report calls on the Lebanese government to cease forcibly extraditing Syrian refugees to the Syrian regime, especially political and military opposition figures who will most likely end up getting killed directly or forcibly-disappeared, reduce the fees for residency renewal, allow refugees to work, and start settling the matters of those who violated the residency requirements and weren’t included in the latest resolution. Also, in order for the refugees to go back to their normal life, which will encourage them to send their children to schools, the Lebanese government must facilitate the procedures for a residency.
Moreover, the report calls on the donor states to fulfill all commitments to the Lebanese state in order to ease the economic, social, and infrastructural burden of taking in nearly 1.7 million individuals that fled to Lebanon, and call on the Lebanese government to implement the aforementioned recommendations, and apply pressure in order to compel it to bring about these changes as soon as possible.