Lebanon News

Syrian refugees allowed back across border

Lebanese citizens in the back of a pickup truck flee Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT: Approximately 2,000 Syrian refugees who were stranded for two days on the highway in the Bekaa Valley have returned to Syria. The refugees were permitted to cross into their home country late Saturday night after coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian authorities.

“The problems with the entrance of the returning Syrians in the Masnaa Lebanese area were solved,” Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali said over the weekend.

A source who had been working to coordinate aid for the stricken refugees confirmed that they had successfully crossed the border.

Shelter within the Syrian territories has already been secured for them, Ali said.

The refugees had fled the fighting on the outskirts of Arsal, where the Lebanese Army clashed with Islamist fighters earlier this month. Syrian authorities had prevented their re-entry because the majority had crossed into Lebanon illegally and lacked the proper paperwork.

Several sources said that another group of refugees, totaling approximately 3,000, also fled the fighting in Arsal with the intention of returning to Syria. The group, however, remains stuck in Ras Baalbek.

“There are two convoys in Ras Baalbek who wanted to leave [to Syria] but were stopped,” a refugee named Hasan told The Daily Star. The group apparently lack the proper paperwork to cross into Syria.

The overwhelmingly Christian residents of Ras Baalbek have witnessed several kidnappings and security incidents related to the Syrian crisis over the past year and are not eager to let the refugees stay, a General Security source said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 11, 2014, on page 3.




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