The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati says that he will send Syrian refugees back to Syria because the international community failed to repatriate them.
"I call on the international community to work with Lebanon to secure the return of Syrian refugees to their country, or else Lebanon will work to get Syrians out through legal means and the firm application of Lebanese law."
Lebanon which has been experiencing its worst economic crisis is considered home to the world’s highest proportion of refugees compared to its population.
Mikati says that the Lebanese government estimates that Syrians account for almost a quarter of its more than six million residents.
"Eleven years after the start of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon no longer has the capacity to bear this burden, especially under the current circumstances."
Mikati’s comments were made during a ceremony to launch the 2022-2023 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, which is backed by the United Nations. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Najat Rochdi, who attended the ceremony, added that the country should not be left to "take on the burden" alone of hosting Syrian refugees.
Lebanon appeals for €3 billion to address the ongoing impact of the Syria crisis. Around €8.5 billion have been provided in assistance through the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan since 2015, the UN says.
The dire economic crisis in Lebanon has resulted in extreme poverty which in turn exacerbating public resentment over the continued presence of Syrian refugees in the country.
Nine out of ten Syrians in Lebanon are living in poverty, a higher proportion than the Lebanese population generally. But some commentators have recently been suggesting that Syrians supported by aid agencies are receiving more than the poorest Lebanese receive in welfare payments, Reuters says.
Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, have warned against forced repatriation to Syria, where they say returning refugees are subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture under Bashar al-Assad’s regime.