BEIRUT: A total of 776 Syria refugees left Lebanon Monday through the Abboudieh, al-Zamarani and Masnaa border crossings to return to their home country, a statement from General Security said.
At around 6 a.m., 15 buses provided by the Syrian government arrived at the border to transport the refugees, a source from General Security told The Daily Star, as part of the latest such return initiative organized by General Security in recent months.
The source previously said that 835 Syrian refugees had registered to return on the day, which means that tens of those registered to return did not.
Even so, "the number of refugees registered with General Security in preparation for their return to Syria has been increasing significantly, and this is good for everyone, both Lebanese and Syrians," said General Security Col. Khattar Nasreddine, the head of the agency’s Information Branch in north Lebanon, according to comments published by the state-run National News Agency.
Representatives from the United Nations refugee agency were present at the meeting points, where returnees were boarding the buses. "We're always present at all gathering points and always coordinate with General Security," a UNHCR source told The Daily Star.
"We talk with the refugees and ask if they have any questions [or] concerns, or need any help," the source said, adding that the refugees who had registered were "happy to be returning."
"They have decided to return and it is their decision. They are happy to be returning. At the same time, some are worried about accessing services, while others will stay with relatives since their homes were destroyed."
Lebanese news outlet LBCI reported that General Security had "worked on preparing for the buses since [Sunday], so there will not be a delay in the return as there had been in the last two returns." Previous returns saw returnees wait for hours before they were allowed to cross the border into Syria, as logistic preparations were completed.
Local media reported that the returnees had gathered at the meeting points announced by General Security Friday – in Akkar, Arsal, Burj Hammoud, Masnaa, Nabatieh, Shebaa and Tripoli – before making their way to the border crossings, near Akkar, Arsal and Zahle, respectively.
General Security has been registering Syrian refugees who are willing to return and organizing their transportation, as well as serving as an intermediary with Syrian authorities, who in some cases may reject a potential returnee.
Last month, General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim claimed that 50,000 Syrian refugees had returned from Lebanon so far this year and that that number could climb to 200,000 within a year’s time.
However, the number Ibrahim cited is considerably higher than both that reported by the United Nations refugee agency and those mentioned in General Security's own previous announcements.