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Lebanon Head of Maronite Church calls for deportation of Syrian refugees; urges international assistance

April 12, 2023 at 6:25 pm

Lebanon’s Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rai in the mountain village of Bkerki, northeast of Beirut, Lebanon on February 27, 2021 [Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency]

The Head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church has called for the deportation of Syrian refugees, urging the international community’s help in carrying it out.

In his recent Easter service message, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai – the head of the Maronite Church in Lebanon – stated that Syrian refugees were “draining the state’s resources, disturbing social security and competing with the Lebanese for their livelihood”.

Claiming that many Syrian refugees continue to frequently travel to and from Syria via both legal and illegal crossings, Al-Rai accused the international community of “protecting them” and “deciding to ignore the repercussions they have on Lebanon”.

Since the 2011 Syrian revolution and the brutal crackdown on protests by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad which led to the ongoing civil war, over half of the country’s population became displaced and millions fled to neighbouring countries such as Turkiye, Jordan and Lebanon.

They have been accused, over the years, of being a burden to those host countries’ populations and governments, especially in terms of their ailing economies, often being subject to calls for deportation. “It is necessary for Lebanese representatives and officials to work with the international community to return them [refugees] to their homeland and help them there,” Al-Rai said.

It is not the first time the Patriarch has called on authorities to deport Syrians from the country, with the last such call being as recently as six months ago. He even called for the removal of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon, sparking condemnation from the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, last year.

READ: Syrian refugees in Lebanon are in ‘a dangerous situation’, the UN says