Lebanon 'forcibly deported' nearly 2,500 Syrian refugees: Amnesty

Lebanese authorities have demolished the shelters of thousands of Syrian families since June

Lebanon has "forcibly deported" nearly 2,500 Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland since May, Amnesty International said Tuesday, calling on authorities to end the expulsions.

Amnesty cited data from Lebanon's General Security agency and the Lebanese government showing that some 2,447 Syrians had been expelled between mid-May and August 9, the rights group said in a statement.

General Security on May 13 started implementing an order from Lebanon's Higher Defence Council to deport refugees who had entered the country illegally after April 2019, it said.

It was not immediately clear whether all those expelled had entered illegally.

"We urge the Lebanese authorities to stop these deportations as a matter of urgency," said Amnesty's Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf.

Any attempt to forcibly return refugees is "a clear violation of Lebanon's non-refoulement obligations", she said.

Non-refoulement is a principle of international law that bars governments from deporting people to countries where they would face persecution.

The Mediterranean country of around 4.5 million people says it hosts some 1.5 million Syrians, of which nearly a million are UN-registered refugees.

Lebanese politicians routinely blame the country's economic and other woes on Syrian refugees and the government has ratcheted up the pressure to send them back.

Rights groups have decried measures to make the lives of refugees increasingly difficult.

Since June, more than 3,600 Syrian families have seen their shelters demolished in the eastern region of Arsal, according to local authorities.

Homes made of anything other than timber and plastic sheeting are not allowed.

Earlier this month, the army destroyed a further 350 structures in the north of the country and arrested dozens of people for lacking residency documents, humanitarian groups said.

The labour ministry, meanwhile, is cracking down on foreign workers without a permit, a move activists say largely targets Syrians.