Syrian refugees in Lebanon can start to return home, says minister

Rights groups have opposed forcible repatriation

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Syrian refugees in Lebanon can start to return home with support from the authorities, says a Syrian Cabinet minister.

Lebanon, which has been experiencing its worst economic crisis since the civil war, hosts a million Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict since 2011. Calls for them to return home have increased during three years of financial crisis in Lebanon.

The downturn has left three quarters of Lebanese people in poverty.

“The doors are open for the return of Syrian refugees,” state news agency, Sana, quoted Syrian Minister of Local Administration Hussein Makhlouf as saying during a meeting with Lebanon's caretaker minister of the displaced in Damascus.

Mr Makhlouf said the Syrian government was ready to provide accommodation for those whose homes were destroyed during a war that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half of the pre-war population of 23 million.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and rights groups oppose involuntary repatriation to Syria because they say it risks endangering the returning refugees.

More than 5 million Syrians are refugees, most of them in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

Few Syrian refugees have returned home since President Bashar Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, regained control of much of the country.

Over the past year, hundreds of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have migrated from Lebanon by boats to Europe in the hope of a better life.

Mr Charafeddine told the Associated Press last month that Lebanon hoped to start repatriating 15,000 Syrian refugees every month in the near future.

Updated: August 16, 2022, 7:13 AM