Lebanon deports 16 Syrians

(File/AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019
0

Lebanon deports 16 Syrians

  • The 16 were all removed to Syria on April 26 after they arrived at Beirut airport, Human Rights Watch and four other groups said in a joint report
  • The latest deportees said they were "pressured" by General Security officers at the airport into signing documents stating that they were "voluntarily" returning to Syria

BEIRUT: Lebanon has "summarily deported" at least 16 Syrians, some of them registered refugees, by forcing them to sign "voluntary repatriation forms," human rights groups said on Friday.
Lebanon hosts nearly one million Syrian refugees - a significant burden for a country of four million people - and there has been mounting pressure for them to go home even though the UN says many areas remain unsafe to return to.
The 16 were all removed to Syria on April 26 after they arrived at Beirut airport, Human Rights Watch and four other groups said in a joint report.
Most of them were sent back to Lebanon after they were barred from entering Cyprus via Turkey, quashing their plans to seek asylum, it said.
At least five were registered with the United Nations refugee agency, it added.
"Lebanese authorities shouldn't deport anyone to Syria without first allowing them a fair opportunity to argue their case for protection," said HRW's acting Middle East director, Lama Fakih.
The report said around 30 Syrians have been deported from Beirut airport this year by Lebanon's General Security agency.
The latest deportees said they were "pressured" by General Security officers at the airport into signing documents stating that they were "voluntarily" returning to Syria.
"My biggest fears returning to Syria are that I would be conscripted and have to fight, or that I would be arrested because the regime has me on a wanted list or because of a case of mistaken identity," the report quoted one of the deportees as saying.
"If I wasn't scared of arrest, I wouldn't have left Syria in the first place."
General Security estimates that over 170,000 Syrian refugees returned home from Lebanon between December 2017 and March 2019.


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 37 sec ago
0

Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."