Amnesty International on Monday called on Lebanon to “immediately stop forcibly deporting refugees back to Syria” after dozens were returned to the war-torn country amid growing anti-Syrian sentiment.
On Friday security officials and a humanitarian source said Lebanese authorities sent dozens of Syrians back to the country, despite warnings they faced grave danger there.
The Syrian refugees “are at risk of torture or persecution at the hands of the Syrian government upon return,” Amnesty said Monday, describing the situation as “alarming.”
The London-based rights group said the Syrians were expelled following raids on their homes in various parts of the country, adding that those who had “entered the country irregularly or held expired residency cards” were deported.
It cited the brother of one refugee as saying that the Lebanese armed forces drove them “directly to the border and handed them over to the Syrian army.”
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians fled to neighboring Lebanon after the country’s civil war began in 2011 with the brutal suppression of anti-regime protests.
Lebanon — which is facing its own protracted political and economic crises — hosts around two million Syrian refugees, authorities say.
Nearly 830,000 are registered with the United Nations.
Lebanese authorities have long pushed for Syrian refugees to return and have made several repatriation efforts they describe as voluntary, but which rights groups say are forced.
“No refugee should be sent back to a place where their life will be at risk,” said Amnesty’s Aya Majzoub, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
She warned that the deportation constituted a violation of the principle of non-refoulement.
“Instead of living in fear after escaping atrocities in Syria, refugees living in Lebanon should be protected from arbitrary raids and unlawful deportations,” she said.
Several Arab countries have recently moved to reestablish ties with Syria following years of political isolation after the war began.