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Lebanon crisis

Lebanon hopes to repatriate Syrian refugees within months

The plan “projects 15,000 monthly repatriations. It’s an acceptable gradual return over a 12-month period,” Issam Charafeddine, Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of the Displaced, told The Associated Press.

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Lebanon hopes to start repatriating Syrian refugees within months over objections by the United Nations and rights groups, a minister said Wednesday.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest numbers of refugees per capita and currently hosts over 1 million Syrians who fled the decade-old conflict.

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Officials say the influx has cost Lebanon billions of dollars and further damaged its crippled infrastructure.

The plan “projects 15,000 monthly repatriations. It’s an acceptable gradual return over a 12-month period,” Issam Charafeddine, Lebanon’s caretaker Minister of the Displaced, told The Associated Press.

“This project is humanitarian, honorable, national and also of urgent economical importance for the Lebanese state,” he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and rights groups oppose involuntary repatriation to Syria and say the practice risks endangering the returning refugees.

The UN refugee agency in a press statement denied that it is engaged in negotiations with Beirut and Damascus on refugee returns.

“UNHCR continues to call on the government of Lebanon to respect the fundamental right of all refugees to a voluntary, safe and dignified return,” the statement read.

The United Nations estimates that 90 percent of Syrian refugee households live in extreme poverty.

But since late 2019, poverty has worsened for both Lebanese and Syrians as the Mediterranean country continues to struggle with crippling economic crisis.

Sky-rocketing fuel prices coupled with a currency collapse has meant many essential commodities are now out of reach.

The Lebanese minister on Monday presented the plan to President Michel Aoun.

A committee consisting of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Charafeddine, six other ministers and the country’s General Security organization has been working on the proposal since March to gradually return some 1.5 million Syrian refugees from Lebanon.

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