The Lebanese city of Majdal Anjar, on the outskirts of which there is a refugee camp, is located near the border with Syria. As its inhabitant Haj Basil told a TASS correspondent, it takes 40-50 minutes to get to Damascus by car from here.
“Yes, I dream of returning to my village near Damascus, but my house is still destroyed,” he says. “There is nowhere to get funds to restore it.” According to Basil, he is ready to move to a new place of residence in his homeland, take a plot, get livestock and settle there. “But who will give a loan, where to find building materials, inventory, diesel to pour into a tractor,” he added. “Who will like these camp conditions, where we drag out our existence? didn’t get in.”
In Lebanon, the life of a refugee has changed for the worse over the past few years. According to Basil, the depreciation of the Lebanese pound has turned the humanitarian aid distributed by the United N-ations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) into a meager amount.
“Feeding a large family with 4 million Lebanese pounds (less than $200) has become difficult. In addition, many have problems with employment due to the long crisis, the owners are reducing the number of day laborers,” he points out. wasteland camps, raise water and electricity tariffs every month.”
Basil himself was lucky: he works in a workshop – repairs agricultural machinery. “We are kept in Lebanon by the fact that here, unlike Syria, there is everything we need – food, fuel oil, medicines. Of course, not everyone can afford it now, even the Lebanese themselves,” he notes. to school on the second shift and medical care is available.”
The Lebanese Minister for Displaced Persons, Issam Sharaf Al-Din, says that he visited Damascus shortly after his appointment and held useful talks there. “The opening of the border in the fall of 2021, after a pause caused by the coronavirus pandemic, once again revived hopes for the resumption of the process of returning Syrian refugees from Lebanon to their homeland,” he says. “In addition, on January 25, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree granting a delay of six months to regulate their civil status to those repatriates who evaded military service”.
According to Sharaf al-Din, as a result of the trip, his department drew up a plan for the phased and safe return of refugees from Lebanon to their homeland, agreed with the Syrian authorities. “This is a detailed document, which contains many details regarding, among other things, the issuance of new documents to refugees to replace those lost and birth certificates for children,” he points out.
However, the delay in the approval of the state budget and the internal political situation that escalated as the parliamentary elections on May 15 approached forced the Lebanese government to postpone consideration of the prepared plan for refugees.
“In fact, the problem is that no steps are being taken by the UN to encourage Syrian refugees to leave for their homeland,” the minister notes. “Our President Michel Aoun has repeatedly raised this issue and demanded that UNHCR organize assistance to refugees on the territory of Syria, which will be an incentive for them to return to their homes, but so far there has been no reaction from the international community.”
According to Sharaf al-Din, the Syrians will be able to live much better in their homeland than in Lebanon with the cash allowance and humanitarian assistance provided. “The question arises who and for what reason is beneficial to keep more than 1.5 million Syrians in our country, which is becoming an increasingly heavy burden in economic and social terms,” the minister said. In his opinion, there are forces in the region and in the West that are trying to use the refugees “for political bargaining with Damascus or for fomenting an internal conflict in Lebanon itself and illegal financial fraud.”
“Of the great powers, only Russia is aware of the danger of emerging problems with the presence of refugees and the need to solve them,” he emphasizes. The Lebanese Minister recalls that the international conference on refugees held in Damascus in November 2020 was “the first practical step in developing comprehensive measures aimed at establishing a process for the mass return of Syrians to their homeland.”
According to him, the second high-level forum under the auspices of Russia and the UN was planned to be held in Beirut in 2021, given the gravity of the situation in which Lebanon found itself, but due to a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting was postponed. “This fact does not in the least detract from the importance for us of Russian support in this crucial issue for Lebanon,” Sharaf al-Din points out.
Conference in Brussels
On May 9-10, at the initiative of the European Union, the sixth international donor conference “In support of the future of Syria and the region” was held in the capital of Belgium. Its organizers did not invite a delegation from Damascus to Brussels. They also refused to send an invitation to the Russian Federation, which, as the Syrian Foreign Ministry noted in a statement, was done “for political reasons that have nothing to do with the situation in Syria.”
“The host countries of this forum hinder the process of post-war reconstruction of Syria and link the return of refugees to their homeland with political conditions,” the Foreign Ministry of the Arab Republic emphasized. “In addition, they continue the inhuman economic blockade and impose unilateral sanctions, which does not allow meeting the needs of the Syrian people in fuel, basic foodstuffs and medicines.
The donors gathered in Brussels allocated $6.7 billion for the humanitarian needs of Syria and the countries of the region hosting Syrian refugees (Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey). Meanwhile, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib noted in his speech at the conference that years, the presence of 1.5 million refugees cost the Lebanese treasury $ 33 billion. In turn, Labor Minister Mustafa Bayram stressed that “the Lebanese state can no longer assume the role of a policeman who guards dossiers with refugees for the sake of the interests of other states.” “The problem should be solved, not preserved for decades,” he said.