BEIRUT (AP) — Local officials in Lebanon are throwing Syrian out of their towns in a violation of their rights as refugees and residents, a human rights group said in a new report released Friday.
Human Rights Watch said it has documented evictions in 13 towns and villages putting more than 3,600 Syrians on the streets since 2017. It says another 7,000 Syrians were forced to abandon a camp near a military base during that time.
The rights group said it was a worrying trend ahead of an international donors’ summit in Belgium to support Lebanon and other countries neighboring war-torn Syria.
Lebanese politicians say their country is straining under the weight of hosting nearly one million Syrian refugees. The tiny Mediterranean country has the highest per capita refugee population in the world: roughly one in five people are refugees, including some 175,000 Palestinians.
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Syrians face numerous barriers to employment, education, and housing in Lebanon, with many forced to live under the radar because Lebanon ordered the U.N.’s refugee commission to halt refugee registrations in 2015.
But anti-Syrian rhetoric has ticked up in recent months as parliamentary elections loom in May.
Local officials in several municipalities have ordered Syrians out en masse, posting eviction notices on their doors, and sometimes sending the police to physically intimidate the refugees if they do not comply, said Human Rights Watch.
The evictions do not appear to have the formal support of the national government. Human Rights Watch called on national authorities to step in and stop the evictions.
“Right now, Syrian refugees do not have the guarantee that they are safe in their homes,” said Bassam Khawaja, a Lebanon researcher for Human Rights Watch.
The U.N.’s refugee agency said in a March report it had documented 13,700 Syrian refugee evictions in 2017. It said evictions were instigated by landlords, municipal authorities, and the military intelligence services for a variety of reasons, including security, social tensions, and failure to pay rent.
Human Rights Watch says another 42,000 refugees are at risk for eviction.