A Syrian girl who was stranded at the border between Lebanon and Syria died on Saturday, without being able to return home due to the $100 entry fee imposed by the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
According to Lebanese Civil Defence officials, 17-year-old Zainab Mohammed Al-Ibrahim collapsed and died at the border. Her body was taken to Lebanon's Elias Hrawi Government Hospital in the city of Zahle. The cause of her death is not known.
Al-Ibrahim was on her way back to her home in Syria but was not allowed to enter the country because she, along with dozens of other Syrians, was unable to pay the $100 that the regime has demanded since July.
The fee, which the regime converts to Syrian liras, is exchanged at only one-quarter of the black market rate, and is intended to help the government circumvent sanctions imposed on it by the United States and the international community.
America recently imposed its Caesar sanctions on the Assad regime as well as individuals, businesses and governments connected with it, which have deepened the economic crisis within Syria.
The exploitative fee, about which many Syrians have expressed outrage at home and abroad, is unlikely to be dropped any time soon. "Our orders are to send anyone who doesn't have $100 back to where they came from, but the Lebanese side does not accept the return of Syrians," explained the head of the regime's Immigration and Passports Authority, General Naji Al-Namir.
Speaking to Syrian Ninar TV, Al-Namir added that those Syrians in Lebanon who do not have enough to pay the fee have just one option. "They must call their friends or family to bring $100 for the exchange, in order for them to enter Syria."
The news of Zainab Al-Ibrahim's death at the border comes a month after the Assad regime announced that those wishing to leave Syria must also pay a $100 departure fee. Officials claim that it is to cover the cost of Covid-19 tests prior to leaving the country.
Collecting US dollars at an exorbitant rate is not the only tactic that the Assad regime has used to circumvent sanctions and fund its war against the Syrian opposition. It is known to have used other black market activities as well, such as producing and exporting narcotics to gangs in Europe and elsewhere.
The Assad regime has also been secretly funded by Syrian businessmen based abroad who use front companies and offshore accounts to transfer money to Damascus, as part of a vast business network based primarily in Russia.