Fears are growing for the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanonafter the country’s new refugees minister made a surprise visit to Damascus this week to discuss their return.
Saleh Gharib, an outspoken supporter of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, said Lebanon would work to “secure the return” of refugees to Syria, where human rights organisations report they are subject to abuse and arbitrary detention.
He explained that the Syrian government “believes that the failure to return the displaced Syrians would be a blow to the victory of the Syrian state”.
The previous refugees minister, Mouin Merehebi, a critic of the Assad regime, said last year that at least 20 refugees had been killed since returning.
Gharib’s appointment was seen as evidence of a potential rapprochement with Damascus as other Middle Eastern countries move towards ending the pariah status of the war-torn nation.