Lebanon deports 16 Syrians

(File/AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019

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.


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 16 min 50 sec ago

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”