Lebanon says it won’t deport six Syrian refugees detained for entering the country without authorization after rights groups said they risked arbitrary detention and torture if they were forcibly returned home.
On Aug. 28, the Lebanese army said it had arrested six Syrians for "entering Lebanon illegally.” The men were detained outside the Syrian Embassy in Beirut, where they had reportedly gone to collect their passports.
The detainees were then handed over to Lebanon's General Security agency. Following an uproar from human rights organizations, on Wednesday the Lebanese security chief confirmed the men would not be sent back to Syria.
"General Security will not deport the six Syrians and will work to regularize their legal status," Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim told Agence France-Presse.
Five of six refugees are from the southern province of Daraa, where the Syrian government has besieged and shelled the city of the same name since June. On Wednesday, regime forces entered Daraa al-Balad under a Russian-brokered cease-fire deal that lifted the siege and required the rebels to surrender their weapons.
The announcement from Ibrahim comes on the heels of an Amnesty International report published Tuesday documenting the detention, disappearance and torture of Syrian refugees who return home. The London-based rights group documented human rights violations by Syrian intelligence officers carried out against 66 Syrians, including 13 children.
The report warned that nowhere in Syria is safe for return and called on the governments of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to ensure Syrian refugees are protected from deportation.
At 1.5 million, Lebanon hosts the world’s largest per capita population of Syrian refugees. Because the Lebanese government does not provide formal camps for the refugees, most have ended up in poorly constructed residential buildings, rural settlements or tents.