Lebanon evicts 6,000 refugees into the streets

Army intervention in northern camps

23 July, 18:26

    Syrian refugees in Lebanon Syrian refugees in Lebanon

    (by Lorenzo Trombetta)

    BEIRUT - Over 6,000 Syrian refugees including many women and children that have long been staying in informal camps in northern Lebanon have in recent days been evicted by the Lebanese army and police. The UN and numerous humanitarian aid agencies in the area reported the news. The resulting emergency spurred the head of the Italian delegation to the Council of Europe, Michele Nicoletti, to make an urgent appeal to Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Debate on the issue, underwritten by MPs Lia Quartapelle and Cinzia Maria Fontana, is scheduled for Friday.
    The document requests information on ''what initiatives the Italian government will take, both at the European Union and at the United Nations, to ensure respect for the human rights of refugees from the Syrian civil war and to support the Lebanese state in its efforts to take them in and protect them.'' Since June 30, the Lebanese army have cleared 95 refugee camps in over 12 locations in the coastal region north of Tripoli, along the border with Syria. Since 2011, the number of Syrians who have sought refugee in Lebanon due to the ongoing violence in their country has reached 1.2 million people, in a country whose population is less than 4 million. The UN halted its refugee registration after pressure from the Lebanese government, which since January has enacted a de facto closure of its border to the arrival of the massive numbers of Syrians and has imposed very strict regulations on their stay in the country. The locations cleared of the tents and makeshift toilet facilities bear barely a trace of their former use, and those evicted often have nowhere to go. Many among the 6,000 displaced have ended up on the streets. The Lebanese army and government sources questioned on the matter refused to comment officially on the news. No official press statements have been made yet and Beirut media have not given much coverage to it. Lebanese foreign minister Gibran Bassil said in recent days that ''the massive presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon threatens to destroy the country's demographic balance''. Most of the Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon are from Sunni-majority areas hit by protests and subsequent crackdowns in 2011 and 2012, and have been there for at least two years. Sources on the ground say that the Lebanese army and security forces gave only 48 hours' notice. In some of the camps there are only a few dozen people, but in Tel Abbas Al-Gharbi and Qubbe Chamra, in the Akkar province, there were 750 and 500 people, respectively. Aid workers in the area say that entire families with children and elderly are now living in the streets under the summer sun and without protection. So far, mostly camps near large artery roads have been cleared. ''We cannot go back to Syria. And they don't want us in Lebanon,'' ANSA was told by some Syrians in an Akkar refugee camp not yet affected by the clearing operations. ''There is nothing left for us to do except to throw ourselves into the sea,'' others interviewed said.

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