BEIRUT: The committee initiated by Hezbollah to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees will “begin implementing the first phase of its program in the coming days", former MP Nawar Al-Sahli told Annahar.
Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that his party will take a leading role in paving the way for refugees to return home given its close relationship with the Syrian government.
The committee is expected to open a number of contact centers where refugees can “receive all the information” needed in order to begin the process of returning to their homeland. The contact numbers of these centers will be released by the party, Al-Sahli told Annahar.
The committee will then dispatch a task force to visit the different refugee camps and hold talks with refugees to “explain to them in detail the procedure” as well as “alleviate their concerns and provide incentives for their return.”
Al-Sahli also reiterated that the committee will work in coordination with Lebanon’s General Security and the Syrian authorities in order to “clear up any legal or logistical obstacle hindering the return of refugees.”
Al-Sahli, who is tasked with heading the committee, maintained that the program came in response “to the outcry of Lebanese over the toll the refugee crisis has taken on the country.”
“This problem cannot be ignored any longer,” he said, adding that the Syrian government is also a proponent of this plan.
On Tuesday, the Syrian government called on refugees to return, saying it has successfully cleared large areas of “terrorists.” Syrian government forces, with crucial support from Russia and Iran, recently retook large areas near the capital, Damascus, and are waging a new offensive in the south. The government refers to all armed opposition groups as terrorists.
On Friday, Nasrallah vowed to form committees in order to draft lists of individuals seeking to return to be presented to Syrian authorities and Lebanon's General Security.
Lebanon has been feuding with the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in recent months over the return of refugees, given that Lebanon is hosting over 1.5 million refugees scattered across its territory.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has repeatedly accused the refugee agency of attempting to dissuade refugees from returning through fearmongering, labeling it a systematic campaign to prevent their return.
On Thursday, dozens of Syrian refugees, who had been living in Arsal, Baalbek, departed Lebanon after requesting permission from the Lebanese and Syrian governments.
About 470 Syrians crossed the border, making their way back to Syria after years of exile as result of the bloody civil war.
- With AP
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