Lebanon Places New Restrictions on Syrian Refugees

Orhan Cicek / Anadolu Agency
Orhan Cicek / Anadolu Agency

Lebanon has implemented a new law requiring Syrian refugees to retain a visa before entering the country in an attempt to limit the prodigious flow of refugees from war-torn Syria into their nation.

“We have enough,” said Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk. “There’s no capacity anymore to host more displaced.”

The UN has condemned the new law, attempting to work out a new agreement with Lebanon to allow vulnerable refugees to enter the country.

“The government says that it will allow those extreme humanitarian cases access but it is not covered in these announcements that have come out the last few days,” said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN refugee agency.

Over 1.5 million refugees fled to Lebanon since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. Numbers went up after the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) stormed through the country to establish their “caliphate.” In August, the jihadists set their eyes on Lebanon. Terrorists captured Arsal, a border town, which prompted aggression towards Syrian refugees.

“Some residents here are angry with us – they’re refusing to host any of us, thinking that we are behind such fighting, as if we were the ones who welcomed the insurgents,” said Walid, one of the Syrian refugees in Arsal at the time of the attack.

The attack damaged and destroyed refugee camps. Soldiers refused to allow the refugees to move farther into Lebanon.

“The situation is miserable,” said deputy mayor Ahmad Flitti. “Now the shelters are full. Soon we are going to have shortages in drugs, and hospitals here will not be able to receive more wounded.”

Other towns and villages “imposed curfews, enforced by local, often violent vigilantes, banning Syrian refugees from moving after dark.” People attack refugee settlements and destroy anything they can find. Businesses can no longer help out the refugees. Lawmakers insist the refugees already in Lebanon could be harmed if the country does not set down some restrictions.

“But it’s also clear to most Lebanese that this situation cannot continue… because it will affect not only the Lebanese but finally it will affect the Syrian refugees in Lebanon if Lebanon descends into chaos,” said lawmaker Basem Shabb.

Residents told The Telegraph how the refugees affected their lives:

In Meshaa, a Sunni village in the north of the country, Amar Zoghbi, 40, who runs a grocery store where Syrian refugees can swap UN supplied vouchers for food said he was now having to loan supplies to Lebanese residents in the town because they too cannot afford to eat.

In what was always a poor part of the country, he had allowed a few people to shop on the promise of future payment even before the Syrian war. But in the last year, the figure had doubled, Mr Zoghbi said, fingering a fat notebook where he wrote the debts owed…

In the town, youths loitered beside empty shops that had recently gone out of business.

Without Lebanon, Turkey is the only viable alternative for those fleeing Syria on foot. With the Islamic State firmly ensconced on the border with Iraq, fleeing in that direction is not a solution. Turkey is a sub par place for Syrian refugees to relocate, as it has a hostile past with the Kurds, the majority of Syrians driven out of northern Syria, and because of their ties to the Islamic State.