BEIRUT: The Hamas Movement Sunday criticized what it said was the detention of eight Palestinians from Syria at a Lebanese Army checkpoint in the north, asking the government to ease restrictions on refugees coming from the war-torn country.
In a statement, Hamas' Refugee Affairs Office said it was following up on the arrest of “eight Palestinians from Syria in Lebanon on May 10 at an Army checkpoint at the entrance of Nahr al-Bared due to the expiration of their annual residency permit.”
The office said that the residency documents of some of the detainees were still valid for another year and had been renewed last month.
It added that the Army referred the detainees to Qibbeh Army station, expressing fear that the group might be deported, as happened with a number of Palestinians last month.
“We condemn this way of detaining and deporting Palestinians that could put their life at risk,” the office said.
The statement asks Lebanese authorities to “lessen the imposed restrictions on Palestinian refugees from Syria and take into consideration international laws governing the treatment of refugees.”
The number of refugees fleeing into Lebanon from Syria has skyrocketed in the past year with more than 1 million registered Syrians. Thousands of Palestinian refugees from Syria have also sought refuge Lebanon as the war rages over the border.
Lebanese authorities have implemented new measures governing the presence and the entry of Palestinians and Syrians in a bid to ease the burden of the refugee influx.
To enter Lebanon, Palestinian refugees from Syria must now possess either an entry permit approved by the General Directorate of General Security, a residency permit 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.
The new measures have come under scrutiny from the Human Rights Watch, which says the process to apply for the permits is unclear and makes it almost impossible for Palestinian refugees to enter Lebanon.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees said Thursday that no Palestinian refugees from Syria had been allowed to cross into Lebanon that day.
Agency spokesman Chris Gunness appealed to Lebanese authorities not to block those in need of sanctuary.
"It is essential that civilians fleeing Syria and seeking safety and protection are granted access and not returned in circumstances where their lives would be at risk," he said.
Meanwhile, the Lebanon-based Palestinian Organization of the Right to Return also urged the Lebanese government to change the new policy.
“I ask Lebanon to go back on its [recent] decision against Palestinians coming from Syria and treat them similarly to Syria refugees in Lebanon,” the head of the organization, Samir Hammoud, said in a ceremony in the Beddawi refugee camp.
Palestinian refugees from Syria held a sit-in in Beddawi, demanding the government revoke the recent measures preventing them from entering the country.
The sit-in was organized by several Palestinian factions, popular committees and a number of the camp’s residents.