As President Trump welcomes Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to Washington, D.C., the status of Syrian refugees in Lebanon must be a prominent and urgent discussion on their agenda – and we urge both leaders to affirm their countries’ commitment to respect the rights of Syrian refugees.
As conflict around the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal has shown, the situation of Syrians seeking protection from the Syrian conflict is extremely precarious and needs the continued attention at the highest levels of the U.S. government and the international community.
Refugees International (RI) calls on the Lebanese government to ensure that any of its military operations along the Syrian border comply with international humanitarian law and to ensure that vulnerable civilian populations are protected. The Lebanese authorities must also do everything possible to guarantee the free movement of civilians.
We are deeply concerned that any discussion of refugee returns to Syria is premature, and the Government of Lebanon and the UN must to everything possible to ensure that any future returns are safe, voluntary, and dignified in accordance with humanitarian standards.
Lebanon currently hosts more than one million Syrian refugees, about one quarter of Lebanon’s population, and governments and international organizations must continue to provide critical support. Prime Minister Hariri has warned of the dangers of premature returns and stated his commitment to Syrian refugees on humanitarian grounds. Refugees International welcomes those statements and urges that they be reaffirmed in today’s meetings.
Eric Schwartz is the president of Refugees International and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration.