UN removes 45,000 Syrian refugees from registration list in Lebanon
Forty-five thousand Syrians have been removed from the United Nation’s official refugee registry as part of a normal deregistration and verification program, not because they traveled to Syria, according to UNHCR spokeswoman Joelle Eid.
Since last fall, UNHCR policy requires all refugees registered in Lebanon to renew their status annually. An in-person interview is required for the renewal of refugee status, Eid said.
The 45,000 refugees who were removed from the list “failed to keep in contact” with UNHCR or “are found not to be in need of international protection,” Eid said.
Also, those who do not regularly show up for assistance distribution are automatically deregistered.
In comments Monday, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said the refugees were cut from the list as “they violated the guidelines put forth by the Lebanese state.”
While the Lebanese government has ostensibly enacted a policy to withdraw the refugee status of Syrians who return to Syria without a legitimate reason, the new protocol has yet to be enforced.
UNHCR is still working with the Lebanese authorities to determine how to implement this new policy on the ground, Eid said.
Moreover, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas has stated that only refugees fleeing from fighting from regions near the Syrian-Lebanese border would be allowed into the country.
The Lebanese government maintains that Syrians living in towns closer to Jordan, Turkey or Iraq have been drawn to Lebanon with the promise of employment and ready humanitarian aid.
The decision to remove the 45,000 Syrians from the list was “not directly linked” to these new policies, Eid said.
UNHCR and government officials will be holding talks this week to draw up a plan to implement the government’s wishes.
Separately, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil contacted a number of officials, including the foreign ministers of Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, regarding the refugee crisis. According to a statement from the ministry, the three countries have proposed a project to help refugees inside Syria or on the borders with Jordan, Iraq or Turkey.
Bassil discussed the urgent need for an international framework to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, and find places to house refugees outside Lebanese territory. The Lebanese government has increasingly called for the erection of formal refugee camps either in Syrian territory or along the Syrian-Lebanese border.
Lebanon is struggling to cope with more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees currently residing within its borders.
According to U.N. estimates, Syrian refugees will comprise one-third of the population of Lebanon by the end of this year.
Bassil Friday stated that the Lebanese government should decide the criteria for registering refugees, a responsibility which the UNHCR has managed thus far.
By Elise Knutsen