BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Thursday issued new, stricter requirements for Palestinians from Syria entering Lebanon, prompting a human rights group to urge the government to continue allowing in all refugees and avoid further deportations.
“There is no decision preventing Palestinian refugees in Syria from entering Lebanon and passing through the country,” Machnouk said in a statement, adding “requirements have been put in place to organize the entry process” for them.
The new rules come in the wake of last weekend’s deportation of some 40 Palestinians back to Syria, after they were allegedly caught with forged documents at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut.
The new rules state that in order to enter Lebanon, Palestinianrefugees from Syria must now possess one of three Lebanese documents: an entry permit approved by the General Directorate of General Security, a residency of one to three years or an exit and return permit.
Those who want to travel through Beirut’s airport may do so as long as they have the necessary documents or visas required by the third country.
Palestinian refugees from Syria coming through the airport will be given a transit permit valid for 24 hours.
Machnouk stressed these requirements could be altered according to the security situation in Syria.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Human Rights Watch called on the government to explain the new rules and continue to abide by their international commitments to allow in all those fleeing persecution in Syria.
“The process of how to apply for these permits is unclear, and we need the government to clarify this,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s Lebanon and Syria researcher. “Do they need to submit their applications to General Security in Beirut or can they do it in Syria? What documentation is required, and what criteria will be applied to assess whether someone gets a visa?”
“Essentially, it makes it difficult for Palestinians who want to enter Lebanon as refugees.”
Fakih urged authorities to instruct border officials “to presume that Palestinians from Syria seeking entry at the land border have a humanitarian need to enter Lebanon and allow them to do so unless there are reasons to doubt the person’s identity or to believe the person represents a security threat to Lebanon.”
She said Lebanon needed to agree to not to deport more refugees.
“The concern is that the government will stop renewing the automatic visas [permits] they gave before. What will happen to people who have these? They should not be deported.”