HRW condemns ‘pressure’ on Syrians to leave Lebanon

At least 15,000 people, including 7,500 children, have been affected by Beirut’s order to demolish refugee shelters. (AFP)
Updated 06 July 2019
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HRW condemns ‘pressure’ on Syrians to leave Lebanon

BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday condemned Lebanon’s order for Syrian refugees to demolish their hard shelters as tantamount to “illegitimate pressure” on them to return to their war-torn country.
Lebanon, a country of some 4 million people, says it hosts at least 1.5 million Syrians on its soil after they fled the eight-year civil war next door, many living in informal settlements in the country’s east.
Nearly a million are registered as refugees with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
To discourage any permanent settlement, Lebanese authorities gave Syrians living in the region of Arsal until July 1 to demolish shelters made of anything but timber and plastic sheeting.
Families have been forced to tear down any small cinderblock room they may have built, with the army stepping in to destroy at least 20 remaining hard shelters as the deadline passed on Monday.
“This crackdown on housing code violations should be seen for what it is, which is illegitimate pressure on Syrian refugees to leave Lebanon,” HRW refugee rights director Bill Frelick said.
“Many of those affected have real reasons to fear returning to Syria, including arrests, torture and ill treatment by Syrian intelligence branches,” he said.
After several Russia-backed victories against opposition fighters and militants since 2015, the Damascus regime controls around 60 percent of Syria’s territory.
Young Syrian men in Lebanon have also told AFP they fear military conscription if they return.

HIGHLIGHTS

• To discourage any permanent settlement, Lebanese authorities gave Syrians living in the region of Arsal until July 1 to demolish shelters made of anything but timber and plastic sheeting.

• Families have been forced to tear down any small cinderblock room they may have built, with the army stepping in to destroy at least 20 remaining hard shelters.

Aids groups have estimated up to 15,000 people, including 7,500 children, to have been affected by the demolition order.
One family made to destroy their shelter last month told AFP they would not return to Syria as their Syrian home had been destroyed by war, leaving them instead to face another harsh winter in a tent.
Echoing similar warnings from other rights monitors, HRW said the demolitions were just one of several methods used to pressure Syrians into leaving Lebanon.
“They include ramped up arrests and deportations, closing of shops, and confiscation or destruction of unlicensed vehicles, on top of other long-standing restrictions, including curfews and evictions, and barriers to refugee education, legal residency, and work authorization,” Frelick said.
“Lebanon shouldn’t create pressures that cumulatively coerce refugees to return involuntarily in conditions that are not conducive to a safe and dignified return,” he said.
Lebanese politicians and part of the population have called for Syrian refugees to go home, blaming them for a string of economic woes in the country.
Syria’s war has killed 370,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.


Jordan king says Israeli annexation would be a disaster

Updated 18 September 2019

Jordan king says Israeli annexation would be a disaster

  • Abdullah said “we’re looking on this with tremendous concern.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Tuesday that if Israel went ahead with the idea of annexing all the settlements in the West Bank it would be a “disaster” for attempts to find any two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Abdullah said he was “extremely concerned” about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to annex all the West Bank settlements.

He said it will “directly impact” the relationship between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and Egypt, and that “these types of statements are ... a disaster to any attempt to move forward to the two-state solution.”

Merkel agreed, calling Netanyahu’s vow “unhelpful.” The German government backs an internationally negotiated peace solution in the sense of a two state solution ... annexations are always detrimental to peace solutions. They do not help and therefore we do not agree, said Merkel

Abdullah said “we’re looking on this with tremendous concern.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Netanyahu’s career was on the line on Tuesday as Israel held its second national election this year, with voters deciding whether to give him another term in office despite a likely indictment on corruption charges.

The longest serving leader in Israeli history was seeking a fourth consecutive term in office and fifth overall. 

But he faced a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud. 

Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.