GENEVA – Geneva Council of Rights and Liberties expresses serious concern on the escalation of discrimination against Syrian refugees in Lebanon within the Covid -19 virus pandemic crisis. We received complaints from the Syrian refugees residing in the town of Ebrin in the northern Lebanon and other parts of the country on discriminatory curfew and movement restrictions limited to two hours a day imposed by the authorities. The refugees reported that a number of them were subjected to cruel treatment, beatings, and humiliation, as they were caught by Lebanese police officers outside their homes during curfews (they are only allowed to move between nine and eleven in the morning). Syrian refugees noted in the testimonies received by the Geneva Council for Rights and Freedoms that the decision of the Lebanese Council of Ministers, which permits movement only between 7 pm and 5 am does not apply to them. Such discriminatory measures violate the provisions of the international covenants and agreements on combating racism and protecting the rights of refugees, especially imposing severe restrictions on their residence and preventing many of them from moving freely, which is common before the emergence of the Corona virus crisis due to fear of being arrested at checkpoints.
Many towns in Lebanon continue adopting decisions prohibiting free movement of the Syrian residents and implementing other policies such as preventing them from residing or working. The Lebanon’s history includes long waves of incitement and discrimination against Syrian refugees, including accusing them without evidence of harming the Lebanese economy and ruin the environment, overuse of electricity and forcible return to their country of origin.
Moreover, the lack of legal residency affects most aspects of the life of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, limits their ability to move freely and prevents them from accessing education and health care services. Geneva Council for Rights and Freedoms calls on the Lebanese government to firmly address all manifestations of discrimination against Syrian refugees and fulfil its obligations to ease strict restrictions on the residency of the Syrians.
Geneva Council recalls that international conventions prohibit any discriminatory treatment of refugees and others, including Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred constitutes incitement to discrimination”. The Lebanese government must also ensure that the measures taken to prevent the spread of the Covid -19 do not violate the basic human rights, including the right to health, non-discrimination and freedom of movement.
The estimated 1 million of Syrian refugees in Lebanon suffer from the deteriorating healthcare system in the refugee camps, which constitutes a threat to their lives and health in these exceptional circumstances. We call on the specialized agencies of the United Nations to intensify efforts to combat the spread of the virus in the refugee camps to prevent serious health crisis.