Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report detailing the manner in which Syrian refugees were being summarily deported back to their war-torn country. According to the report:
[Jordanian] authorities have been deporting refugees—including the collective expulsion of large families—without giving them a meaningful chance to challenge their removal and failing to consider their need for international protection. In the first five months of 2017, Jordanian authorities were deporting about 400 registered Syrian refugees per month, in addition to about 300 unorganized returns of registered refugees per month that appeared to be voluntary. Another 500 refugees per month were estimated as returning to Syria with little known about the circumstances of their return.
A little over a week ago, on October 20, The Atlantic published the story of a Syrian family with seventeen members, who had been living in Jordan since 2012, but were suddenly arrested and deported back to Syria without warning. When asked for an explanation as to why they were being singled out, the family was told they were suspected of communicating with ISIS. They were never provided with any evidence supporting these accusations. Within 24-hours, the entire family had been sent back to Syria—to “a war zone without sufficient water, electricity, medical care, or any way out”—where they discovered their home had been completely destroyed by airstrikes.
Together with Turkey and Lebanon, Jordan has one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees in the world. Many asylum-seekers see the country as an ideal sanctuary and abode of peace away from war and calamity. As mass-deportations continue at an alarming rate, however, many Syrians are now reconsidering traveling to, and remaining in, the Hashemite Kingdom, for fear that they may find themselves forced back into Syria at a moment’s notice.
In neighboring Lebanon, where over one million registered Syrian refugees are living, fears that Jordanian-style mass deportations may soon take place are also rampant. Lebanese authorities have sent Syrian refugees back to their country in the past, though not as steadily or in such high numbers as Jordan. Still, as in Jordan, refugees in Lebanon live in constant-fear of deportation.
A recent video report from Al Jazeera highlights the increasing hostility Syrian refugees are facing in Lebanon. They are being encouraged—by government authorities and citizens alike—to leave the country, and being attacked on the streets by ultra-nationalists on a regular basis. In the video, one of these refugees, who was a victim of assault in 2016, said that “we [Syrians] came here to save our children from death and illiteracy. We came here to survive and expect to be treated with respect and live safely. But, it’s been the other way around. We now live in fear every day and night.”
On October 21, Lebanon’s Minister of Economy and Trade, Raed Khoury, said “Lebanon was no longer capable of hosting Syrian refugees, and the government planned to develop a solution,” according to The Daily Star. Earlier, on October 16, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that “[Lebanon] cannot handle it anymore,” and “told international envoys he wanted to find ways for [Syrians] to return [home] safely” according to Reuters.
As governments become more hostile, and living conditions continue to plummet for refugees (with nearly three-fourths living in extreme poverty), many Syrians in Lebanon may soon find themselves returning to the war-torn country they once fled—whether by desperation or force.