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Lebanon Presses UNHCR on Refugee Return Strategy

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Lebanon on Tuesday gave the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] a fortnight to respond to a request to develop a strategy to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to safe zones in their homeland.


The Foreign Ministry's political affairs director, Ghady al-Khoury, met with the body's Lebanon representative to voice Lebanon's reservations over the UNHCR policy on the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon, a statement from the ministry said.

"The UNHCR is not talking about the right of return or resettlement [outside Lebanon] and we are under the impression that [they consider] integration the only remaining option for [refugees], which is a no-go for Lebanon," said a source who attended Tuesday's meeting.

According to the source, Mireille Girard, the UNHCR representative, understood Lebanon's position, but maintained that the body has its own set of criteria for the return of refugees to war-torn countries.

Soon after the meeting, in a statement addressed to Girard, the Foreign Ministry demanded that UNHCR refrain from issuing further statements on refugee returns. 

Days after 500 more refugees returned to Syria from Lebanon, the Foreign Ministry accused the agency of scaremongering with its statement on the return, in which the UNHCR said the situation in Syria was not conducive to large-scale return.

The source also said they did not want to attack the UNHCR's policy on return, which the source acknowledged was to ultimately return refugees to their homeland. "But we informed [the UNHCR] of Lebanon's policy and our economic situation. The country can no longer endure [the burden]."

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team