MASNAA, Lebanon (AP) – Hundreds of Syrian refugees started crossing the border from Lebanon on Saturday, the latest group to return to Syria from its western neighbour.
Three buses carrying scores of people crossed the border into Syria in the early afternoon and more than 30 other buses are in Lebanon to carry more refugees later in the day.
Russia has put forward an initiative to return hundreds of thousands of refugees to Syria, and hundreds have returned from Lebanon over the past weeks.
The head of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim called on Syrian refugees to come to the directorate’s offices to register their names to return home. He added that the move will eventually end up returning “hundreds of thousands” to their homes.
He said that some delays were caused by vetting those that are wanted back home. “We are insisting that no Syrian refugee returns home and then is detained,” Ibrahim told reporters at the border.
Syrian state TV said up to 1,200 Syrians are expected to end up returning on Saturday, adding that more than 30 Syrian buses crossed into Lebanon to bring them back home.
“I have no words to express my feelings,” a Syrian woman told the channel while aboard a bus after she reached the Syrian side of the border. A teenager in the bus carried a poster of President Bashar Assad with a caption that read: “Together on the roads of victory.”
Many have returned from the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal over the past weeks. Most of those heading home Saturday were coming from the southern Lebanese village of Chebaa.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Friday that the Russian initiative aims to return some 890,000 Syrians from Lebanon.
Lebanon is home to some 1 million Syrian refugees, a large number for a country of 4.5 million people.
The Russian initiative was proposed following the summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although it was not clear whether the U.S. supported the proposal.