Sixty-five Syrians were arrested Sunday as two suspected people smugglers attempted to bring them into Lebanon, the Internal Security Forces reported in a statement.
The suspected smugglers, identified as Syrian nationals M.R. and A.M., were caught with the group, which included 11 children, in the western Bekaa village of Suweiri.
The driver of the white Mitsubishi van transporting the group managed to escape, leaving the vehicle behind. An investigation had been launched to locate the driver.
The arrests came amid a crackdown by the ISF on people smuggling between Lebanon and Syria.
The Syrians being brought into the country had been handed over to the authorities, and their cases were under investigation. They face charges of attempting to enter Lebanese territory illegally.
The arrests follow the return Saturday of 722 Syrian refugees who had been living in southern Lebanon’s Shebaa and the central Bekaa, General Security said in a statement. This marked the fourth voluntary refugee return organized by General Security in coordination with the Syrian government in recent weeks, following three installments that had departed from the northeastern town of Arsal.
Three buses carrying nearly 100 people from the Bekaa passed Saturday through the Masnaa border crossing and headed to Zabadani in rural Damascus, the second return to follow this route, according to Josep Zapater, head of the Bekaa office for the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR. Some 18 buses, which had been provided by the Syrian government, carried the remaining refugees, picking up from Shebaa and departing for Beit Jin in southern Syria, Zapater said.
General Security head Abbas Ibrahim visited the gathering site in Shebaa to oversee the process.
“The coming period will witness the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Lebanon to their homes, in coordination with the Russian initiative,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying by the state-run National News Agency. The General Security chief called on refugees who wished to return to register their names at the agency’s centers, which are spread out across Lebanon.
“From our side, we strive to facilitate the safe return for everyone,” Ibrahim said. “We also work on solving any problems they face with Syrian authorities, so they can return sound and secure.”
The UNHCR reportedly conducted one-on-one interviews with the returning refugees to confirm that they are returning voluntarily.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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