Lebanon orders Syrian refugees to be counted and registered

Interior Minister requests nationwide survey of all displaced Syrians in the country

A Syrian refugee fleeing from war at work on a farm in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Getty
Powered by automated translation

Lebanon’s caretaker interior minister Bassam Mawlawi ordered authorities in the country to count and register Syrian refugees on a municipal level on Wednesday.

It represents an attempt to take a national census of displaced Syrians in Lebanon.

The request, sent to Lebanon’s eight governorates, its municipalities and villages, asked officials to “enumerate and register all displaced Syrians residing within their locales”.

Syrians will be unable to rent property “before verifying that they are registered with the municipality and hold legal residency in Lebanon”.

The campaign comes after dozens of forced deportations of Syrian refugees to their home country.

Critics of the measure pointed out the contradiction of conducting a census of Syrians in Lebanon when a census of the state’s own citizens had not been conducted in more than 90 years.

The last national Lebanese census of its own citizens was in 1932, when it was under French mandate before independence.

Mr Mawlawi called on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to permanently close files belonging to refugees who return to Syria, even if they re-enter Lebanon.

Lebanon’s leadership has often made scapegoats of Syrian refugees to deflect from the country’s political and economic problems. But their number is unknown.

In 2015, at the height of Syria’s war and refugee crisis, the Lebanese government asked UNHCR to suspend the registration of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

UNHCR puts the number at around 840,000 registered refugees, but many refugees remain unregistered.

Lebanese authorities estimate there are 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Officials have in recent weeks said that the number of refugees will bring demographic change.

Some believe that Syrians will soon outnumber Lebanese.

Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar said recently “we will become refugees in our own country”.

Updated: May 04, 2023, 11:17 AM