Syrian Refugees Risk Perilous Journey Back Home Amid Rising Anti-Refugee Sentiment in Lebanon

Due to escalating anti-refugee sentiment in Lebanon, hundreds of Syrian refugees are risking dangerous journeys back to Syria. Many prefer the perilous conditions in opposition-held northwestern Syria over continued hardship in Lebanon. The situation highlights the complex dynamics refugees face amid political tensions, economic struggles, and security risks.

PTI | Idlib | Updated: 12-06-2024 11:42 IST | Created: 12-06-2024 11:42 IST
Syrian Refugees Risk Perilous Journey Back Home Amid Rising Anti-Refugee Sentiment in Lebanon
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For more than a decade, a steady flow of Syrians have crossed the border from their war-torn country into Lebanon. However, anti-refugee sentiment is rising there, prompting hundreds of Syrian refugees to make the perilous journey back to Syria in recent months.

They navigate dangerous, mountainous terrains on foot or motorcycle, often bribing their way through government-held territories to reach opposition-controlled northwestern Syria. The numbers returning from Lebanon have surged this year; the local insurgent-run government in Idlib recorded 1,041 arrivals in May alone, up from 446 in April.

Lebanon hosts the highest per capita population of refugees globally, with about 780,000 Syrian refugees registered with the U.N. and hundreds of thousands more unregistered. The strain has led to rising tensions, particularly since Lebanon's economic crisis in 2019, and has resulted in increased calls for the refugees to be repatriated or resettled elsewhere.

Tensions escalated in April following the killing of a Lebanese official by a Syrian gang during a botched carjacking, triggering outbreaks of anti-Syrian violence. In retaliation, Lebanese security forces have raided businesses employing undocumented Syrian workers, and authorities have deported hundreds of refugees.

Despite the precarious situation in Lebanon, many refugees find it preferable to northwest Syria, which is under constant threat from armed groups and government bombings. Aid cuts by international organizations also exacerbate their plight.

Walid Mohammed Abdel Bakki, who returned to Idlib in April after his son's tragic death in Lebanon, said, "Life in Lebanon was hell, and in the end, we lost my son." His son Ali, who had schizophrenia, was allegedly tortured by Lebanese army intelligence, leading to his death.

Amid this backdrop, many refugees are forced to make the dangerous trek back to Syria. Human rights organizations claim a wave of orchestrated hate speech and violence against refugees is driving this exodus.

The route to Idlib is fraught with dangers, particularly for those wanted in government-controlled areas for draft evasion or suspected opposition ties. Smuggling gangs and local militias control these perilous pathways.

Ramzi Youssef, another returning refugee, highlighted the compounded challenges refugees face. Despite the risks, he prefers his current life in impoverished Idlib over Lebanon's instability and increasing anti-Syrian sentiment.

He said, "Despite the poverty and living in a tent and everything else, believe me, I'm happy and until now I haven't regretted that I came back from Lebanon."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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