Lebanon: More needs to be done to safeguard the rights of refugees, says UN Human Rights Committee

April 13, 2022

On April 6, 2022, the Human Rights Committee evaluated Lebanon’s efforts to tackle violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, safeguard the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant domestic workers in light of its last Concluding Observations. Regarding the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Lebanon, MENA Rights Group and the Global Detention Project published a joint report explaining the ways in which the situation has worsened since 2018. Echoing our concerns, the Committee found that the State of Lebanon failed to implement most recommendations addressing the matter.

Map from CIA World Factbook 2015.

Violations of non-refoulement

In 2018, the Committee called on Lebanon to “ensure that the non-refoulement principle is strictly adhered to in practice, that all asylum seekers are protected against pushbacks at the border and that they have access to refugee status determination procedures.” Although Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita, with the Government estimation of 1.5 million Syrian refugees, the principle of non-refoulement has been undermined in recent years.

In its follow-up report, the Committee noted the worsening situation and were unsatisfied with “the absence of information about any specific measures taken to implement the recommendations.”

On April 15, 2019, the General Director of the General Security issued a decision to summarily deport all Syrians caught crossing the border irregularly after April 24, 2019, and to hand them directly to Syrian government authorities. Furthermore, 863 cases of refoulement were documented during the closure of borders between Syria and Lebanon due to Covid-19.

Syrian refugees who are forced to return to their country of origin are exposed to serious human rights violations. Amnesty International found that Syrian security forces have subjected Syrians who returned home after seeking refuge abroad to detention, disappearance and torture, including sexual violence.

The detention of asylum seekers and refugees in law and practice

The Committee found that the State party failed to provide information on efforts to bring its legislation and practices relating to the detention of asylum seekers and refugees into compliance with article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In recent years, it has becoming increasingly difficult for Syrian refugees to obtain legal residency, exposing them to the risk of arrest and detention.

When apprehended, non-citizens can be detained and slated for expulsion by both criminal and administrative procedures. In most cases, non-citizens are charged with violations of Lebanese law on account of their legal status, either because they entered the country irregularly or because they do not hold a valid residency permit.

Since 2018, the UNHCR noted a continuous decline in the rate of Syrian refugees with legal residency, exposing them to the risk of arrest and detention. Although a fee waiver policy was adopted in 2017, the majority of Syrian refugees could not benefit from this waiver.

Equally concerning, access to appeals procedures regarding detention or deportation had not been made easier and in practice, the judicial authorities rarely scrutinize or review the legalities of detention.

Discriminatory curfews

In 2018, the Committee urged Lebanon to “ensure that curfews, if applied, are imposed only as a short-term and area-specific exceptional measure and are lawful and strictly justified.”

Yet, Lebanon continued to impose curfews targeting specifically non-Lebanese nationals. While municipalities initially invoked security concerns as a justification for imposing curfews on Syrian citizens, notably in the context of the Syrian civil war and its consequences in Lebanon, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic provided an additional justification for restricting the freedom of movement of Syrian citizens.

In its follow-up report, the Committee took note of the information provided by the Lebanese authorities that the curfews introduced in municipalities hosting large numbers of refugees were lifted after a short period of time but requested additional information on the specific measures taken to ensure that curfews remain an exceptional measure and that the ones previously imposed were lawful and strictly justified under the ICCPR.

Next Steps

Lebanon is expected to submit its next periodic report by April 6, 2023 and to include in that report specific up-to-date information on the implementation of the recommendations made, including additional information on concrete steps taken within the reporting time.

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