Syrian refugees leave Arsal to return to Syria on June 28, 2018. The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir
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Women and children crammed in the back of pick-up trucks piled high with mattresses and blankets, as dozens of Syrian refugees in Lebanon began crossing the border Thursday, heading back home to an uncertain future in war-torn Syria. The small exodus is part of a repatriation program that the government says is voluntary – the first batch of refugees to return to Syria from the Lebanese border town of Arsal this year. About 300 Syrians made the crossing Thursday, after having requested permission from the Lebanese and Syrian governments.The repatriations come amid a dispute between the Lebanese government and the U.N.'s refugee agency, which Beirut accuses of trying to discourage refugees from returning home.The family had been in Lebanon since 2013 .As the Syrian army, backed by its allies Russia and Iran, has regained more territory from rebels in Syria, the Lebanese government has argued that many areas in Syria have stabilized enough for refugees to return.Once home to some 120,000 Syrian refugees, the number in Arsal dwindled over the past two years to 50,000 after thousands returned home or moved elsewhere in Lebanon, Hujeiri said.
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