Lebanon evicting Syrian refugees from towns, says rights group

In this April, 18, 2018 file photo, a Syrian displaced man who fled the war in Syria carries his belongings past Lebanese soldiers as he prepares to return to his village of Beit Jinn in Syria, near the Lebanese-Syrian border, in Shebaa, southern Lebanon. (AP Photo/Ziad Choufi)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Lebanon evicting Syrian refugees from towns, says rights group

  • Human Rights Watch said it has documented evictions in 13 towns and villages putting more than 3,600 Syrians on the streets since 2017
  • Evictions said to be instigated by landlords, municipal authorities, and the military intelligence services for a variety of reasons

BEIRUT: Local officials in Lebanon are throwing Syrian out of their towns in a violation of their rights as refugees and residents, a human rights group said in a new report released Friday.
Human Rights Watch said it has documented evictions in 13 towns and villages putting more than 3,600 Syrians on the streets since 2017. It says another 7,000 Syrians were forced to abandon a camp near a military base during that time.
The rights group said it was a worrying trend ahead of an international donors’ summit in Belgium to support Lebanon and other countries neighboring war-torn Syria.
Lebanese politicians say their country is straining under the weight of hosting nearly one million Syrian refugees. The tiny Mediterranean country has the highest per capita refugee population in the world: roughly one in five people are refugees, including some 175,000 Palestinians.
Syrians face numerous barriers to employment, education, and housing in Lebanon, with many forced to live under the radar because Lebanon ordered the UN’s refugee commission to halt refugee registrations in 2015.
But anti-Syrian rhetoric has ticked up in recent months as parliamentary elections loom in May.
Local officials in several municipalities have ordered Syrians out en masse, posting eviction notices on their doors, and sometimes sending the police to physically intimidate the refugees if they do not comply, said Human Rights Watch.
The evictions do not appear to have the formal support of the national government. Human Rights Watch called on national authorities to step in and stop the evictions.
“Right now, Syrian refugees do not have the guarantee that they are safe in their homes,” said Bassam Khawaja, a Lebanon researcher for Human Rights Watch.
The UN’s refugee agency said in a March report it had documented 13,700 Syrian refugee evictions in 2017. It said evictions were instigated by landlords, municipal authorities, and the military intelligence services for a variety of reasons, including security, social tensions, and failure to pay rent.
Human Rights Watch says another 42,000 refugees are at risk for eviction.


Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: Give up your program,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.