BEIRUT: A decision by the Cabinet to exempt Syrian refugees from the penalty for violating Lebanon's residency laws is aimed at encouraging their return to Syria, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Friday.
“The proposal to exempt Syrian refugees from the fine that was to be imposed on them for violating the law was made by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk,” Derbas told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.
The decision, he stressed, “aims to do everything possible to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their country.”
In response to a question, Derbas said Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil “is naturally coordinating efforts with the Syrian ambassador.”
“The Lebanese government has taken a decision not to indulge in the Syria conflict, and, therefore, everything the government does is done by contacting the ambassador.”
The penalty exemption reflects the extent to which Lebanon has reached a tipping point in the refugee crisis.
The Cabinet Thursday agreed that Syrians wishing to return home for good should be exempt from any residency-related fees or fines at the border. It said the decision would go into effect in the next three months.