Pregnant women and parents separated from their children denied entry into Lebanon
Palestinian refugees from Syria - including pregnant women, children and women with infants - have been denied entry into Lebanon due to recently-tightened border restrictions, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today (1 July).
The 18-page briefing - Denied refuge: Palestinians from Syria seeking safety in Lebanon - highlights the plight of families torn apart after falling foul of fluctuating border rules while trying to cross into Lebanon. In one of the most shocking cases a mother who had escaped from the besieged Yarmouk area of Damascus with a new-born baby was barred from entering Lebanon when she tried to join her husband and five other children (see below).
Under Lebanon’s new entry conditions, Palestinian refugees from Syria must show they meet certain conditions for temporary residence in Lebanon or are transiting through the country. These conditions are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for refugees to meet, and do not apply to Syrians. Even prior to the changes which took effect in May, Palestinian refugees from Syria faced different conditions for entry.
Amnesty has also found evidence of a policy to deny Palestinian refugees from Syria entry into Lebanon altogether - regardless of whether they meet the new entry conditions. Evidence includes a leaked document, apparently from the security services, instructing airlines using the main Beirut airport not to transport any traveller who is a Palestinian refugee from Syria to Lebanon, regardless of the documents they hold. Syria’s Palestinian refugees have also faced serious hindrances in seeking refuge in other countries neighbouring Syria. Since January 2013, Jordan has barred entry to them, and last year testimony from refugees indicated it had become more difficult for Palestinian refugees from Syria to enter Turkey than Syrian nationals.
Meanwhile, last month the Lebanese authorities introduced new conditions for Syrian refugees - restricting entry to those coming from areas where there is fighting near the Lebanese border. The impact of this policy is not yet clear.
Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights Sherif Elsayed-Ali said:
“By denying entry to a mother and her new-born child, among others, the Lebanese authorities have displayed a chilling disregard for the rights of refugees who are fleeing a bloody conflict.
“The Lebanese authorities must immediately end the blatantly discriminatory policies towards Palestinian refugees arriving from Syria. While the influx of refugees has placed an immense strain on Lebanon’s resources, there is no excuse for abandoning Palestinian refugees who are seeking safety in Lebanon.”
Parents denied entry more than 30 times, pregnant woman turned back
Suleiman, a 12-year-old boy, has been separated from his parents and brother for nearly a year since they returned from Lebanon to Syria to get new identity documents, which are needed to renew visas in Lebanon. His parents have since tried to re-enter Lebanon more than 30 times to no avail. He is now living with an uncle in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, in another case, a woman who managed to escape from the besieged Damascus area of Yarmouk was denied entry to Lebanon at her first attempt in March this year even though she was six months pregnant and accompanied by five of her children. She was admitted to Lebanon on the second attempt after being helped by a UN worker. When her husband and another son tried to join her in Lebanon a month later, Lebanese border officials refused them entry because they were Palestinians.
Palestinian refugees in limbo even in Lebanon
Those who have managed to safely cross the border into Lebanon still face considerable uncertainty. According to information received by Amnesty, some Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are not being allowed to renew their temporary visas or residency permits, leaving them in legal limbo and at risk of arrest and deportation. In some cases people find they do not have the right documents to secure or renew visas and - in desperation - return to Syria to obtain documents. Other refugees spoke of the difficulties of affording fees associated with renewing visas.
Call for more international funding for Lebanon
Amnesty is calling on the Lebanese authorities to ensure that all refugees from Syria can enter Lebanon and seek refuge; conditions of entry should not prevent anyone seeking refuge and must abide by the principle of non-discrimination. The organisation is also renewing its call for the international community to step up its financial support to Syria’s neighbouring countries, including Lebanon, which is hosting the largest number of refugees from Syria.
Sherif Elsayed Ali added:
“To its considerable credit and despite the strain it has caused, Lebanon has generally kept its doors open for people fleeing Syria and must be encouraged to keep them open, including for Palestinians from Syria.
“The international community must not ignore its shameful failure to provide even close to adequate support to Lebanon.”