Eight Lebanese organizations have called on Lebanese authorities to respect the rule of law and ensure that Syrian nationals have the right of defense against forcible deportation to Syria. These organizations are: The Legal Agenda, Frontiers Rights, Alef, Lebanese Center for Human Rights, Umam for Documentation and Research, Lebanon Support, SMEX and Lebanese Labor Watch.
After Lebanon was committed to the principle of non-refoulement by refraining from forcibly deporting people to Syria since 2012, two new decisions issued by the Lebanese authorities have allowed for the forcible deportation of Syrians who entered the country through unofficial border crossings. These are a decision by the Supreme Defense Council issued on April 15th, 2019 and a decision by the General Director of the General Security issued on May 13th, 2019. The latter allowed for the forcible deportation of Syrians who entered Lebanon irregularly after April 24th, 2019 by handing them over to the Syrian authorities based on summary procedures and without respect for due process. The National News Agency had reported that at least 301 Syrian nationals had been forcibly deported to Syria in May 2019 based on the Supreme Defense Council decision.
The eight organizations submitted a Position Paper to the Lebanese authorities arguing against these decisions as follows:
- While the reasons to seek asylum may no longer generally apply to all people from Syria as they did previously, they still exist for many of them whom the Lebanese state has a duty to protect from forced returns to Syria.
- All the provisions governing Syrians’ entry and residence in Lebanon today are illegal per a decision issued by the highest judicial authority, namely the State Council ruling No. 421 of 8 February 2018, which the authorities have so far failed to comply with.
- The decisions of the Supreme Defense Council and the General Security are a flagrant violation of the Constitution, Lebanese laws and international conventions: they allow for deportations orders to be issued and executed summarily by incompetent authorities without verification of the risks upon return to Syria and without granting Syrian nationals the right of defense and the right to resort to the judiciary. The decisions therefore endanger the lives of Syrians who are at risk in case of refoulement.
- The right to seek asylum in Lebanon is a constitutional right, and any deportation order to Syria must grant the foreigner the opportunity to challenge it before its execution.
- There is no justification for disregarding the law when it comes to protecting the lives of refugees from Syria from refoulement.
The organizations requested from the Lebanese authorities (including the President, Council of Ministers, Supreme Defense Council, General Prosecutor, Minister of Interior, General Security, Internal Security Forces and Lebanese Armed Forces) to respect the Constitution and the rule of law in Lebanon and to take all necessary measures to annul the two decisions and immediately implement the 2018 State Council ruling. They also called on them to assume the responsibility to instate a general policy governing the asylum in Lebanon of persons from Syria in conformity with the Lebanese Constitution and Lebanon’s humanitarian and international obligations.