Lebanon considers closing border with Syria to halt refugees
Syrian refugees rest on the roadside close to the Lebanon border, August 8, 2014 (File/AFP)
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Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Monday that Lebanon was considering closing its border with Syria to halt the influx of refugees.
"All options are on the table to protect Lebanon, including the closure of the border with Syria," Derbas told reporters following a meeting of the ministerial committee tasked with following up on the Syrian refugee crisis.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam chaired the meeting that was also attended by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Earlier, Machnouk contradicted comments over the weekend by Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, who said that issue of returning Syrian refugees had been successfully resolved.
“The Syrian regime outright rejects the return of any refugees, whatever their legal status,” Machnouk said in remarks published Monday by local daily An-Nahar.
He said Syrian refugees in Lebanon, close to 1.3 million, were divided into four categories: those who face prosecution in Syria and whom Lebanon refuses to deport; some with acceptable identification documents; some who have entered Lebanon illegally with General Security securing the settlement of such refugees; and those with no identification cards and who cannot be returned to Syria.
A General Security source said that approximately 2,000 Syrian refugees who were stranded for two days on the highway in the Bekaa Valley had returned to Syria. The refugees were permitted to cross into their home country late Saturday night after coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian authorities.
Nearly 2,000 Syrian refugees leaving Lebanon were barred from Syrian territory Thursday, over relations with anti-regime fighters, a security source told The Daily Star.
Approximately 500 undocumented elderly, 400 children and 800 women returning from the northeastern border town of Arsal following a five-day battle between jihadists and the Lebanese Army were blocked from entering their home country after they admitted to being relatives of rebel troops, according to the source.