Joint Statement – Respect International Law in EU-Lebanon Migration Deal

هذه المقالة متاحة أيضًا بـ: العربية (Arabic)

Lebanese authorities and the European Union must respect their obligations
under international law and not forcibly return refugees to Syria as long as the
conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified returns are not met, eight Non-governmental organizations
(The Coalition of the North-South movement in Flanders 11.11.11, Access Center for Human Rights (ACHR), Amnesty International, Centre Libanais des Droits Humains (CLDH), EuroMed Rights, Human Rights Watch, PAX, and Syrian Network for Human Rights, said today ahead of European
Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen’s visit to Beirut.
In recent months, the Lebanese government has advocated for an EU-Lebanon
migration deal under which the EU, according to media reports, would provide
additional financial support to Lebanese security agencies to prevent people,
including Syrian refugees, Lebanese individuals and other nationals living in
Lebanon, from trying to reach European states. The deal would also expand
return assistance programming to so-called “safe areas” inside Syria to
incentivize refugee returns.
This is the latest in a series of migration cooperation deals negotiated by the EU
that seeks to enlist third countries’ assistance on border control and that are
premised on the abdication of responsibility for people seeking safety. These
deals expose individuals to human rights risks, erode asylum protection and
undermine the international protection system as a whole. These agreements
evade public, parliamentary, and judicial oversight in the EU and partner
countries and consistently lack adequate monitoring and oversight mechanisms
to ensure the EU is not complicit in human rights violations.
No parts of Syria are safe for returns. The United Nations continues to maintain
that conditions in Syria are “not conducive to safe and dignified return”. In April
2024, the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) found that high or
substantive levels of indiscriminate violence continue to persist in most areas of
Syria and that the risk of being persecuted remains widespread. In recent
months, Syria has also experienced the worst escalation in violence since 2020.
In the past two months alone, both the UN Commission of Inquiry for Syria and
the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have issued
reports that reiterated that Syria remains unsafe for return and that returnees are
specifically being targeted upon return. Human rights organisations, including
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Syrian Network for Human
Rights, continue to document how Syrian security forces and governmentaffiliated militias arbitrarily detain, torture, disappear and kill refugees who
return. These violations are often a direct consequence of perceived affiliation
with the opposition simply based on individuals’ decisions to leave the country
and seek refuge elsewhere.
Given these conditions, EU assistance geared to enabling or incentivizing returns
to Syria risks resulting in forced returns of refugees, making Lebanon and the EU
complicit in violations of the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement, which obliges states not to forcibly return people to countries where
they risk persecution or other serious human rights violations.
Further, since 2019, Lebanese authorities have been summarily deporting Syrian
refugees back to Syria, including through forced returns at the border, in violation
of the principle of non-refoulement.
As such, EU support to Lebanese security agencies with the aim of curbing
migration movements to Europe could result in Syrians resorting to even longer
and more dangerous routes to try to reach Europe’s shores in order to avoid
forced deportation to Syria, making them reliant on smuggling networks and
vulnerable to trafficking.
Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita,
with the government estimating that 1.5 million Syrian refugees currently live in
the country. The country has struggled to assist refugees amid an acute economic
crisis that has pushed over 80 percent of the population into poverty. Donor
countries, including the EU, have dramatically reduced their funding for refugee
programming. Further, in 2023, only 2,800 Syrians were resettled to the EU
from Lebanon, which amounts to a mere 1% of the overall number of Syrians
living in the country who were in need of resettlement. Recent decisions by the
United States and many EU member states to suspend funding to the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
(UNRWA) which provides assistance to 250,000 Palestinians in Lebanon – 80
per cent already living under the poverty line, have put even more strain on
Lebanon’s refugee population, while the future of the organization remains in
Stronger EU support to Lebanon in meeting the needs of refugees is long
overdue. Well-managed cooperation with partner countries – based on human
rights and the rule of law – could deliver inclusive growth, sustainable
development, and advance strategic partnerships. Such partnerships must
include human rights risks and impact assessments, independent monitoring,
and clauses to suspend cooperation if abuses follow. Any EU-Lebanon migration
partnership should be aimed at protecting Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including
by halting summary deportations. Further, the EU should commit to providing
additional funding to support refugee and Lebanese host communities, resettling
a greater number of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon to Europe, and ending
illegal pushbacks from EU countries to Lebanon. Finally, the EU and member
states should ensure that they provide adequate support to UNRWA.

NHRC-CPT is an independent commission established by Law No. 62 based on the Paris Principles (‘Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions’). It also includes Lebanon’s national preventive mechanism (CPT) In accordance with the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) under Law No. 12 of September 5, 2008.

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