The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR exclusive | Syrian refugee forcibly deported from Lebanon tells of details of his trip to Idlib

The racist campaigns led by the Lebanese army and some racist politicians in Lebanon, which have dramatically escalated in the recent time, have spurred hundreds of Syrian refugees to return to Syria, especially to HTS-held areas in north-western Syria. Meanwhile, many others have been forced to return, after having been illegally detained for different reasons.

 

Many of those people sneak from Lebanon into Syria through dangerous routes, after paying large sums of money to smugglers who help them to cross the border strip into north-west Syria. According to deals struck between the two sides, smugglers are responsible for delivering Syrians through those routes without passing through any checkpoints of the Syrian regime.

 

Such trips have triggered the Lebanese authorities and some racist individuals to mishandle Syrian refugees, where SOHR has documented scores of heinous crimes and blatant violations against Syrians in Lebanon.

 

According to SOHR sources, the most of the forcibly deported Syrians, especially young men, are forced by Syrian regime security authorities to sign documents to join mandatory and reserve military service, while many others managed to leave regime-controlled areas for other zones of influence, with the help of smugglers and for large sums of money.

 

Speaking to SOHR, a Syrian man who has recently been deported to north-west Syria said “one day, three people in plain cloths speaking Syrian came to my work place in Beirut city, and they asked me to show them my ID and work permit. After I had showed them all the required documents, they asked me to check the general security department in the city in order to confirm those documents. When I headed to the general security department, security members handcuffed me and held me in a prison for one day.”

 

“On the following day, I met the security chief who asked me to sign a voluntarily return document. I refused to sign the document and told him that I stayed in Lebanon for 12 years, but he started to shout at me saying ‘this land does not belong to you and your people. You will return to Syria whether you like it or not.’ I told him that they would hand us over to the Syrian regime’s intelligence service and that this would pose a threat to our lives. He said ‘Lebanon authorities do not hand over any one to the Syrian regime.’ I insisted not to sign any documents without the presence of a lawyer authorized by the United Nations to follow the affairs of the deported Syrians. When I met the lawyer, she asked me to sign the voluntary return document, as she had nothing to do, and she told me the United Nations gave up the Syrian refugees. In that moment, I realized that I would be deported by force and no one could help me to stay.”

 

“I was taken to the prison again where I was punished for asking to met the UN lawyer by imprisonment for 20 days, at a time when the rest of people in my cell left the prison after only three days. Three was nearly 40 Syrian refugees, including women and children, in my cell, who were arrested to be deported. There was a woman from Homs, who was continuously crying, as her little children were home alone, where she was arrested at the street without informing her children who stayed alone at home after the death of their father. During the time when I was in prison, prisoners where continuously changed. When it was time to take me from the prison to deport me to Syria, I was put in a security car with other young men, where we were taken to a joint border post of Al-Masna’ between the Syrian and Lebanese crossings. The security members asked us to step out of the car and wake to the Syrian crossing.”

 

“When we were at the joint post, we saw people getting out of a Lebanese security car and they were taken directly and put in a security car of the Syrian regime, where we thought that they were suspects. Our IDs were checked at the Syrian regime security branch at the crossing, where security forces made sure that we were involved in any crimes, before they gave us documents to join reserve conscription in no more than a month. We were verbally abused for ‘escaping from the country and not defending it against terrorism,’ as they described.”

 

“After having arrived in Syrian territory, no checkpoints stopped us while traveling between Syrian provinces. I waited for the arrival of my family in Damascus in order to continue our way to north Syria region in order to evade reserve conscription in the regime army. While I was waiting my family to come from Lebanon, I was communicating with smugglers to help us to leave for north Syria. The smugglers asked me to pay 1,300 in return for deliver me and my family from Damascus to north Syria region. In addition, groups of other smugglers working on areas separating different zones of influence from each others asked us to give them money to be paid to the officials responsible for the checkpoints we were passing through. The smugglers attempted to take as much money as possible from us.”

 

Before our arrival in Idlib, HTS members stationed at a crossing to north Syria took us to the courthouse in Qah town to decide whether we would stay in the region or not. After having made sure that we were not involved in any crimes or violations, the court asked for an application from a guarantor from the inhabitants of the region to allow us to stay there. One of my relatives was inhabiting in the region and I asked him to guarantee me, and he was able to bring me out of the courthouse. The number of Syrians who have recently been deported from Lebanon was large.”

 

It is worth noting that the ongoing deportation of Syrians from Lebanon coincides with the racist campaigns launched by Lebanese politicians, disregarding the risks which they may face when they arrive in regime-controlled areas.

 

On May 14, SOHR sources reported that deportations against Syrian refugees in Lebanon continue in light of the ongoing racist campaigns and grave violations being instigated by some Lebanese politicians, without taking into account their severe fear of returning and their objection to their deportation towards regime-held areas, as two convoys of 310 Syrian refugees launched at dawn today from Lebanon towards Syrian territory under the name of “voluntary return”, which was organized by the Lebanese General Security in coordination with the security services of the regime, where Syrian refugees gathered at Wadi Hamid crossing in the Lebanese Arsal, to launch with the first convoy that included 300 Syrian refugees towards Al-Qalamoun villages, while the second convoy, which includes ten Syrian refugees, launched from Jose crossing in Al-Qaa towards Homs.