UN concerned about increasing attacks on Syrian refugees in Lebanon amid failure of the authorities to halt them
This is also available in: العربية (Arabic) متوفر ايضا باللغة
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva, 22 June 2021
A group of human rights experts at the United Nations expressed their concern about the xenophobic attacks against Syrian refugees in the town and district of Bcharre, and the Zouk Bhannine area in the Minieh al-Dinnieh district in Lebanon, and the authorities’ reckless attitude towards these attacks.
Unjustified attacks in Bcharre:
In a memorandum sent to the Lebanese government on April 23, 2021, which has not yet been responded to, the experts explained that the homes of Syrian refugees in the city of Bcharre, a city with a Maronite Christian majority that provided shelter for about 995 Syrians, were attacked on November 23, 2020, when a number of local men and boys gathered in the streets armed with guns, knives or wooden sticks, covering their faces with shirts or scarves, attacked homes, injuring 13 Syrian refugees, and a pregnant woman who miscarried while trying to escape.
The law enforcement forces did not intervene in the attacks, despite the arrival of the Internal Security Forces (the police) and the Lebanese army to Bcharre.
The experts added that the municipality of Bcharre issued a statement stressing that it was and still is a refuge for the persecuted, at the same time denouncing the Syrians’ possession of weapons, calling on all security services to “carry out a wide search of their places of residence, to verify their identities, and not to delay this matter because of its great danger.”
On December 4, the Commissioner of the Bcharre District held a meeting with the participation of representatives from the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, local officials, and security services. After the meeting, he announced a number of restrictions and requirements for Syrian refugees in the city.
A dispute with Syrians led to the outbreak of violence in Zouk Bhannine:
Concerning the attacks on Syrians in the Zouk Bhannine area, Minieh al-Dinnieh district, experts confirmed that on December 26, 2020, a group of Lebanese young men shot bullets in the air and set fire to tents of Syrian refugees in an informal settlement in the area, following a dispute with some Syrians, which led to the displacement of all 401 residents of the settlement, which consists of 86 families – many of them women and children – and dozens of them suffered burns that required medical care. An investigation was opened and two Lebanese and six Syrians were arrested in connection with the incident.
In their memo, the experts expressed their deep concern about the attacks on Syrian refugees and migrants in Bcharre and Zouk Bhannine, and their xenophobic connotations, which led to the physical injuries of dozens of Syrians and the further displacement of hundreds of them, including women and children, leaving them without adequate shelter. They also condemned the failure of local authorities, law enforcement agencies, and relevant security agencies to ensure adequate protection for Syrian refugees and migrants in the town of Bcharre, which deprived them of their right to personal security.
The experts added that there are concerns that the responsible local and national authorities have not yet taken measures to provide adequate shelter for Syrians displaced by the events in Bcharre and the Zouk Bhannine area, and that political leaders in Lebanon may have failed to condemn violence against Syrian families and individuals, and some of them even engaged in inflammatory rhetoric that may lead to further victimization or impede redress for affected Syrian refugees and migrants.
UN demands from the Lebanese government:
The UN experts called on the Lebanese government to clarify the role of the security and law enforcement agencies present in the town of Bcharre on November 23 and 24, and the legal basis for the searches that were conducted in the homes of Syrian families and individuals on and after November 24, and to clarify how these actions contributed to ensuring the security and safety of Syrian families and individuals.
The experts also called on Lebanon to provide information on the results of any investigations opened into the attacks on Syrian families and individuals in the town of Bcharre and in the Zouk Bhannine area, and the measures taken to hold the perpetrators accountable, clarifying the legal basis for the request of local authorities for law enforcement and security agencies to request Syrians to leave the town of Bcharre, and the procedures taken to ensure that these people have access to essential services in their new places of residence.
The experts also requested information on any condemnations by the Lebanese government of attacks on Syrians in Bcharre and Zouk Bhannine, with information on plans and measures taken to ensure the long-term and sustainable residence of Syrian refugees who lost their homes in the wake of the aforementioned events in Bcharre and Zouk Bhannine.