A decision by the Lebanese authorities to evacuate hundreds of Syrians from four encampments in Arsal has raised fears of a new displacement and stirred angry reactions that prompted Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq to suspend the move until a suitable alternative is found for families.
This came amid preparations for the return of a new batch of around 500 refugees to Qalamoun in the suburbs of Damascus during the next two days.
Minister of State for the Displaced Affairs Moeen al-Merehbi said that the decision had been issued by the interior ministry earlier, but that bureaucracy led to a delay in informing the concerned parties about it.
He added that the decision would not be implemented unless an alternative shelter is found for the families.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Merehbi noted that he discussed the issue with Mashnouq, stressing that it would be resolved in a way that preserves the interests of the Lebanese State and the refugees’ dignity.
Mashnouq said in his statement issued on Tuesday that he asked the Director-General of the Internal Security Forces, Major General Imad Othman, to stop working on the circular issued three months ago at the request of the Lebanese Army, which provided for the evacuation of four camps for displaced Syrians in Arsal.
The statement added that the decision to delay the move was taken in consultation with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Merehbi and the mayor of Arsal, Bassel al-Hujeiri pending an alternative solution for the 2,000 refugees staying in these camps.
Meanwhile, Merehbi and Hujeiri both confirmed that a new batch of displaced Syrians would leave Arsal in the next couple of days.
On Sunday, around 42 Syrians crossed into Syrian territories from Arsal. They were transported in two buses through the border crossing of al-Masnaa, accompanied by patrols of the General Security.
The repatriation is held in coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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