Don’t blame Syrian refugees for your problems, Lebanon told

A young Syrian refugee in Lebanon. (Reuters)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Don’t blame Syrian refugees for your problems, Lebanon told

BEIRUT: Political leaders, religious authorities and the media were urged on Wednesday not to make Syrian refugees scapegoats for Lebanon’s problems.
“Lebanon is headed toward parliamentary elections, and there are so many controversial debates about issues that affect Lebanese society, politics and the economy,” said Mireille Girard, representative in Lebanon for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
“Tension may sometimes be focused on refugees because they are believed to be the cause of many current political, security and economic problems. Thus, it is very important that we sit together and thoroughly discuss this matter.
“The media is responsible for reducing tension and being objective, and this is also the responsibility of political leaders, religious authorities and other concerned sectors.”
Girard was speaking at a workshop organized with the Ministry of Information on media coverage of the refugee issue. Information Minister Melhem Riachy called for “positive media coverage that does not conceal facts, violate the principle of objectivity and suggest that the whole population of a country are murderers because one of them committed a crime.”
Riachy accused some media outlets of promoting racism and ideas that contradicted historical fact. “If we wish for refugees to return safely to their own country, we must work to ease the causes of tension in Lebanon,” he said.
UNHCR Protection Officer Esther Pinzari said immigrants and displaced people were not the same as Syrian refugees, of whom there were 1 million in Lebanon. Ensuring their safe and voluntary return was important, she said. “Seeking refuge in a third country is the solution for a small number of people who suffer from extremely fragile conditions.”
Nasser Yassin, director of research at the Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, said most Syrian refugees were women and children, and they contributed $1.25 billion to Lebanon’s economy.
“In the past, they used to spend their money inside Syria,” he said. “If refugees returned to Syria today, only the tension would be eased, but not Lebanon’s economic crisis.”
Schott Gregg, UNHCR media officer, said refugees could not be forced to return to Syria while violence continued. “The war in Syria is not over yet,” he said. “The areas that are safe this week may not be so next week.”


Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

Destroyed buildings following an explosion on Aug. 12 at an arms depot in a residential area in Syria’s Idlib province city of Sarmada. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

  • Russia has offered to repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 but Jordan does not want to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland
  • Jordan would benefit from reopening its border with Syria, but also carried risks of terrorists enter the country with fake IDs

AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.

The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.

Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.

The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.

“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”

The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces. 

Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.

Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.

The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.

The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.

A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.

Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.

But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.

The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.

But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.