Bassil: U.N. Policy Forbids Refugees’ Return, Lebanese Policy Encourages It
After a controversial decision that Lebanon will freeze residency permits for U.N. refugee staff, caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil visited the refugee-crowded town of Arsal where he stressed the need for “safe and rapid return” of Syrian refugees.
“We have come to Arsal today because of the conflict between Lebanon and the international community over the refugees crisis. We want the safe and rapid return of displaced Syrians to their country,” stressed Bassil after meeting with a number of committees representing refugees wanting to return to Syria and Arsal’s Mayor Bassel al-Hujeiri at the Municipal Building.
Bassil assured that Lebanon does not call for an immediate or forced return of refugees, “we are calling for a progressive and safe return but they (the international community) are not even letting us complete the first phase,” he said.
“The UNHCR can offer assistance to the refugees in Syria instead of in Lebanon. They can do that,” said Bassil.
“I am only advocating for well principled human rights. I can see the will of Syrians to return home once the return begins” he said, adding that the “UN policy is to forbid the return while the Lebanese policy is to encourage the return.”
On Friday, Bassil ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for the staff of the United Nations refugee agency, saying it is not encouraging Syrian refugees to return home.
For his part, Hujeiri said the town has been hosting Syrian refugees for 7 years. He stressed saying “the decision to return is the refugees’ alone,” adding that the “municipality is taking a neutral position and respects the decision they see suitable.”