The Syrian regime is preventing refugees from returning to areas where it has made demographic changes on the ground, a Lebanese minister said yesterday.
Minister of State for Refugees Affairs Mouin Merehbi told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that Syrian authorities rejected the return of Sunni families to Al-Qalamoun and Al-Qusayr and its countryside.
The regime, he added, has replaced the Sunni families with families from other areas.
The UN Refugee Commission could get in touch with the Syrian refugees who had returned home so it is difficult to ensure their safety, Merehbi said.
Six batches of Syrian refugees have returned to Syria from Lebanon as part of the "voluntary return" system, in coordination with the Lebanese authorities and the Syrian regime. No official numbers of those who returned are available.
According to Lebanese official figures, around one million and a half million Syrian refugees are currently living in Lebanon. But the United Nations puts their number at less than a million.