Bassil calls Syrian refugee exodus a “conspiracy”, proposes racist law against Syrian refugees in Lebanon: report

Jan 05, 2022

Gebran Bassil, the head of Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement, has unveiled proposed legislation which would criminalize any Syrian refugee found working in Lebanon, as well as preventing any Syrian refugee visiting Syria so long as he or she has refugee status Reporting on the proposed new legislation, the Shaam News Network (SNN) explained that it had been issued in relation to racist statements and rules imposed by officials affiliated with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In a statement on his Twitter account, Bassil said that his party would present a legislative bill proposing that any Syrian in Lebanon with a ‘refugee card’ would face fines, asserting that Syrians displaced from their country “must choose between the status of the worker or the refugee.” He added that the proposed legislation would also ensure that no Syrian with refugee ID visiting his country from Lebanon would be allowed to return to Lebanon.

Even those Syrians who can find work in Lebanon are given the most menial jobs and paid a fraction of the amount given to Lebanese doing the same work. Most refugees are now poverty-stricken or wholly destitute, with malnutrition widespread, especially after the UN cut back on the small amount of aid given and no other source of income available.

Bassil, a long-time ally of Bashar al-Assad, stated that according to international law, nobody who returns to their country is considered a refugee, describing Syrians’ exodus to Lebanon as a “conspiracy” and expressing his readiness to visit Damascus for meetings with regime officials, if this would help in resolving the situation, “even before the elections”.

The newspaper ‘Al Sharq al-Awsat’ said in a recent report that the economic crisis in Lebanon had cast a shadow over about 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country, and made their already desperate conditions even worse than before, while the UNHCR previously said in October of 2020, "about 90% of Syrians in Lebanon now live below the poverty line, compared to 55% in the previous year.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called on the international community to assume its responsibility in facilitating the return of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon to their country, claiming wrongly that most Syrian areas have become safe, during his meeting with the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Ambassador Geir Pedersen at the Baabda presidential palace east of Beirut, according to a statement from the Lebanese presidency.

It is noteworthy that Aoun, another longstanding Assad ally, has always linked the economic and financial crises afflicting the country with the Syrian refugee crisis, as a means of covering up his own abject failure in managing the country, and has regularly asserted that Lebanon has the right to recover part of this amount from the countries which he said ignited the war in Syria.

While Lebanese officials have issued numerous racist statements against Syrian refugees in the country, most have remained conspicuously silent on Hezbollah’s central role in driving the refugees from their homes in Syrian cities, towns and villages on Assad’s behalf, as well as killing many thousands of civilians in campaigns of ethnosectarian cleansing orchestrated by Iran’s regime. As Lebanese Foreign Minister, Bassil previously said that Lebanon “has produced prophets and saints, and no displaced, corrupt refugee will take our place.” This typically offensive statement characterises the nature of the racism that Syrian refugees face.

SNN also cited a recent report by Lebanese newspaper Al-Diyar, quoting Lebanese political insiders who revealed that the Syrian regime and Lebanese governing authorities have been engaged in constant efforts to permanently return Syrian refugees in Lebanon to Syria, despite the fact that refoulment to a place of danger is illegal under international law, and notwithstanding the political and financial obstacles and ‘vetoes’ set in place by Washington.