BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil said Tuesday his Strong Lebanon bloc will study the potential of establishing regional committees to encourage Syrian refugee returns.
The committee will “gather together Lebanese from all areas to work with refugees on the ground to encourage their return,” Bassil said at a news conference after the bloc’s weekly meeting. He added the bloc would also draft a political paper on the return of Syrian refugees with the intent of gaining national consensus on the issue from religious and political leaders.
Bassil has been leading calls for the return of refugees before a solution to the ongoing Syrian civil war is reached, arguing areas of the country are safe for return and that Lebanon is under threat of a permanent refugee settlement.
Bassil froze the renewal of visas for UNHCR staff earlier this month, claiming the refugee agency was discouraging the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland. The UNHCR has said it would not discourage voluntary refugee return.
Less than 1 million Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR, though Lebanese officials put that at around 1.5 million.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 27, 2018, on page 2.