“Human Rights”: Refugees returning to Syria “a life like death”

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Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting the violations faced by refugees who returned to Syria between 2017 and 2021.


The “Life Is Like Death” report, issued on Wednesday, October 20, concluded that Syria is still not safe for the return of refugees, after interviewing 65 people who were subjected to violations, including 21 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, 13 cases of torture, and three kidnappings. Five cases of extrajudicial killing, 17 cases of enforced disappearance, and one case of sexual violence.


Syrian refugees constitute 25% of the total refugees around the world, and the largest number of them are concentrated in Turkey, while Lebanon and Jordan host the largest proportion of refugees compared to the global population, according to the report, which focused on returning refugees from Lebanon and Jordan.


 


A bar graph showing the top 10 asylum countries for Syrian refugees


Refugees in Lebanon are subjected to constant pressures, according to a systematic policy designed to ensure that Syrian refugees do not integrate, and led them to believe that they have no choice but to return to Syria.


Municipalities and local authorities in Lebanon are free to adopt different policies and strategies, as Lebanon is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, does not adopt a unified or centralized policy towards Syrian refugees, and refuses to recognize Syrians as refugees.


In May 2019, the Lebanese Higher Defense Council announced that all Syrians who entered Lebanon irregularly after April 24, 2019 will be deported and handed over directly to the Syrian authorities. Following the decision, six thousand and 345 Syrians were deported between April 2019 and last September. The organization documented the arrest of At least three of them.


While the report considered that Jordan adopted a better approach, granting refugees the right to obtain an asylum seeker’s certificate by registering with the UNHCR, the Jordanian authorities closed unofficial border crossings near population centers, to restrict the flow of Syrian refugees into its territory.


The refugees attributed their return to Syria, to the lack of livelihood opportunities, the deterioration of economic conditions following the pandemic of the “Corona emerging” virus (Covid-19), the difficulty of obtaining health care in Lebanon and Jordan, and the desire to restore their lands and homes in Syria, in addition to the belief that the situation Security has improved in the area to which they will return.


In talking about the “misleading” information that affected the decision to return, the refugees relied on information from the media, or from relatives and friends who had returned before them. They also received promises of protection from the Lebanese security, according to what one of the returnees who was arrested after returning from Lebanon said, Yasser (32 years old), from Homs.


The report included documentation of the violations practiced by the Syrian regime in detention centers, noting that the intelligence services of the Syrian government have illegally arrested tens of thousands of people, the whereabouts of most of whom are still unknown and not recognized by the state.


Before returning to their country, the Syrians carry out a set of procedures under the name of “reconciliation” and “security permits,” in addition to checking their names on the wanted lists, and although most of the interviewees were subjected to one or all of these procedures, they were subjected to human rights violations upon their return.


The report focused on the form of life inside Syria, as the country is witnessing deteriorating economic conditions, and destruction of property and infrastructure, and Syrians are subjected to extortion by the security authorities, to conduct many transactions, or obtain information about their missing relatives, according to the report.


He warned the people who were subjected to violations after their return of the option to return for refugees, whatever their circumstances, noting that safety in Syria is still contingent on preventing the security services from intimidating and arresting people.


The report concluded with calls from the organization to the government of the Syrian regime, all refugee-hosting countries, and international organizations, to protect refugees and not to violate their rights, and not to encourage or facilitate the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.


The report came two days after the issue of the return of Syrian refugees was re-introduced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, through discussions held by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, with the Minister of Local Administration and Environment, Hussein Makhlouf, and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Sergei Vershinin, to address refugee concerns and expand humanitarian assistance in the country, including for people who have chosen to return home after years of displacement within and outside their country.


During the past months, several UN reports were issued warning against the return of Syrian refugees, given that Syria is still not safe.


On the 7th of last September, Amnesty International issued a report entitled “

You are going to die

It documented violations committed by Syrian intelligence officers against 66 returnees, including 13 children, between mid-2017 and spring 2021.


The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria also announced that the war in Syria is still ongoing, and it is inappropriate for refugees to return to it, according to

statement

 It was released on the 23rd of September.


For its part, the government of the Syrian regime and its main ally Russia continue to openly invite refugees to return, accusing Western countries of discouraging them, claiming that Syria is still unsafe.


The number of Syrian refugees hosted by five neighboring countries is estimated at 5.5 million people, and those countries bear the responsibility of protecting them, according to the agreement.

Geneva

“which requires all states, even those that have not signed the Convention, to abide by the basic standards of protection that are part of general international law, and accordingly cannot return any refugee to territories where his freedom or life would be threatened.