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Lebanese Officials Slam UNHCR for ‘unlawfully’ Issuing Housing Documents for Syrian Refugees

Lebanese officials and citizens have taken to social media to slam the UN refugee agency for allegedly issuing residency certificates for Syrian refugees in the country, something they say is supposed to be done by Lebanese authorities.

Officials in Lebanon have blasted the UN refugee agency for issuing housing documents for Syrian refugees, saying it breaches local laws and state authority.

Images have gone viral on social media, purportedly showing ‘housing attestations’ (proof of address documents) given by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issues residence certificates for refugees specifying their current place of residence in Lebanon and basic information. Refugees need this housing statement to renew their residency based on their UNHCR certificate, as requested by General Security,” the UNHCR website said.

Translation: The UNHCR violates Lebanese sovereignty and grants housing certificates to displaced Syrians in flagrant violation of the law as part of the policy of imposing integration and settlement. Effrontery which has crossed all red lines! Waiting for General Security to do what is necessary to put an end to this violation.

Issuing these attestations falls within the prerogatives of the General Security – the agency in charge of border control and the affairs of foreigners on Lebanese soil – in coordination with municipalities. Lebanon’s Ministry of Interior oversees both General Security and municipalities.

Hezbollah-linked MP Ibrahim al-Moussawi condemned it as a “serious violation.”

“What is required is to take immediate measures against the commission [UNHCR] to deter it, as well as a serious initiative to take an official, national, and sovereign decision to stop the flow of displaced people and begin their return,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

MP Razi el-Hage of the Strong Republic bloc of the Christian Lebanese Forces wrote on X that the issuance of these proof of these documents by the UN was a blatant violation of Lebanese law and national sovereignty, saying the UNHCR was disrespecting a 2003 MoU which governed such matters.

Lawmaker and industrialist Michel Daher went as far as to allege there was a “global conspiracy” against Lebanon to keep the refugees there, noting that Beirut was not a signatory of the Refugee Convention in 1951.

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees did not adhere to the memorandum of understanding with Lebanon, which was signed in 2003, which stipulates that the asylum seeker is given temporary residency for one year until he is resettled in a third country. Otherwise, the Lebanese state has the right to deport him after the expiration of the period,” he wrote on X.

Anti-Syrian sentiment on the rise in Lebanon

Rights groups have warned against repatriations, saying Syrians were threatened with arrest and torture if they return and are wanted by the Syrian regime. There have been harrowing reports of such things happening.

The New Arab emailed the UNHCR for comment.

Several other officials and social media users commented on the issue slamming the UNHCR, calling for it to be questioned and held accountable.

Translation: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attacks the Lebanese state.

Anti-refugee sentiment is at an all-time high in Lebanon, which at one point hosted nearly two million refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Now, Lebanon is mired in its worst-ever financial and economic crisis.

The UN says less than a million are registered with it.

Politicians in Lebanon accuse the UNHCR and the international community of trying to naturalise Syrian refugees in Lebanon, arguing that war-torn Syria was safe enough for their return. However, there are accusations the political establishment is distracting away from its policy failures by scapegoating Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Many of the refugees in Lebanon live in squalid conditions, especially those in tented camps, particularly during the harsh winter months.

Syria’s infrastructure and economy are in ruins after a 12-year conflict. Half of the country’s pre-war population has been displaced and over half a million are said to have been killed.

Cyprus recently called for the European Union to increase its financial support to Lebanon, arguing that Lebanon was a “barrier” that prevented refugees from entering Europe.

Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou also asked the European Commission to reconsider whether or not Syria is still an “unsafe country” for refugee return.

Source : The New Arab