Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lebanon to Iraqi refugees: Leave or rot in jail

Lebanon is threatening thousands of Iraqi refugees with jail if they do not leave. Lebanon, which is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention extending legal rights to refugees fleeing political violence, is wary of hosting the Iraqis seeking safety for their families. According to the London Times, “As Iraqi refugees start to return from years of exile in neighbouring Syria, often propelled by tougher visa regulations or a lack of money, the 50,000 who have tried to settle in Lebanon face a grim choice between prison time and the danger of returning to their still violent country.”

The country already has approximately 300,000 Palestinians who have participated in Lebanon’s internal political strife.

Human Rights Watch has issued a report on the problem that calls on Lebanon to grant the refugees temporary and for other countries, particularly the United States, to do their part in the resettlement process. This from Human Rights Watch:
Lebanese authorities arrest Iraqi refugees without valid visas and detain them indefinitely to coerce them to return to Iraq, Human Rights Watch said in a report
released today.

“Iraqi refugees in Lebanon live in constant fear of arrest,” said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch. “Refugees who are arrested face the prospect of rotting in jail indefinitely unless they agree to return to Iraq and face the dangers there.”

66-page report, “Rot Here or Die There: Bleak Choices for Iraqi Refugees in Lebanon,” documents the Lebanese government’s failure to provide a legal status for Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and details the impact of this policy on the refugees’ lives.

Lebanon’s refusal to legalize the stay of Iraqi refugees affects not just the relatively small proportion of Iraqi refugees who are arrested and detained. As a result of this policy, most Iraqi refugees in Lebanon live in fear of arrest. Without legal status in Lebanon, Iraqi refugees are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by employers and landlords.

No comments: