Syrians return to own country, despite risks of persecution

Undeterred by the chaos in the war-ridden country, a significant number of Syrian refugees are returning from host countries, Arab News reported on March 5.

The outbreak of the civil war in 2011 caused a mass diaspora with many fleeing to neighbouring countries and/or the European continent. 

It is believed that between 10 to 13 million have left their country since the turmoil, which was caused as a result of strongman Bashar Al-Assad’s shutdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests. 

A report published on February 13 by the UN Human Rights Office noted that many refugees who fled the conflict to neighbouring countries over the past decade now “face gross human rights violations and abuses upon their return to Syria.” 

Although voluntary return to Syria has occurred some are facing deportations. It was reported on March 3 that 4 Syrian prisoners banged up near Beirut attempted to commit suicide by ejecting themselves from a tall building after they found out that a fellow detainee and a brother of one of the men was handed over to the Assad government. 

The group are currently being held in the largely overcrowded Roumieh Prison, Lebanon’s most notorious prison. 

The UN Human Rights Office spoke to various individuals who said that they were called in for questioning by Syria’s authorities following their return to the country. 

Others reported being arrested and detained by government authorities in regime-held areas, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham or Turkish-affiliated armed groups in the northwest, and the Syrian Democratic Forces in the northeast. 

READ: More Syrians commiting suicide after Lebanese deportation order

The report also found that, “People have also had their money and belongings extorted, their property confiscated, and have been denied identity and other documents. While the Syrian population as a whole face such human rights abuses and violations.” 

Recent data found that close to 40,000 Syrians who lived abroad had returned home with some citing the cost of living crisis in some host countries as well as the dire treatment of migrants for their return. 

The latter is emphasised by neighbouring Lebanon, which is now home to 1.5 million Syrians, who are ramping up their anti-migrant stance as Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said in October 2023 that the number of refugees entering Lebanon is “unbearable” and posing a threat to the nation’s demographics. 

Last month, Lebanon also refused to welcome a boat carrying Syrian refugees from Cyprus despite an agreement between the two countries which meant that Cyprus had the right to return migrants back to Lebanon via irregular routes. 

The Lebanese authorities’ obstructive measures resulted in Cyprus welcoming them days later much to the dismay of migration rights groups. 

The UN report added that female returnees to Syria were negatively affected the most as they, “face specifically discriminatory restrictions on their liberty to move freely and independently. It also documents a number of cases of women being forced by male family members to return to Syria to assess the conditions for safe and sustainable return for the rest of the family.” 

Arab News

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