- Lebanon is obligated to cancel prohibitive fees for renewing visas, or the refusal to renew visas, which result in refugees being considered to be staying illegally in the country.
- The Government of Lebanon must immediately cancel the new visa and resident requirements and allow all persons fleeing the conflict in Syria, who are normally resident in Syria, to enter Lebanon until such time that it is safe for them to return.
- The Lebanese government must instruct municipalities to stop imposing curfews on Syrian refugees, to stop condoning vigilantism and to protect Syrians in Lebanon from retaliatory measures.
- The government of Lebanon must cancel the broad 'security campaign' targeting Syrian workers currently being launched across Beirut. The unannounced raids on businesses that employ Syrian workers have been ongoing since 12/10/2014.
- The Lebanese government should coordinate closely with the U.N. and develop criteria to ensure those feeling violence are able to cross into Lebanon.
- Lebanese General Security officials at the Masnaa border crossing must ensure that no one fleeing Syria is forcibly returned to Syria in any manner whatsoever, including rejection at the border. General Security must immediately revoke all instructions to border officials and airlines which violate the principle of non-refoulement.
- Refugees from Syria much be allowed to renew their residency in Lebanon until it is safe for them to return. Lebanon is obliged to waive the fees for renewal of visas for refugees from Syria or only charge a nominal fee.
- Lebanese officials must make every effort not to separate families, particularly in cases where children are attempting to join their parents who are already in Lebanon. All children born in Lebanon must be registered in accordance with Lebanon's obligations under the Convention on the Right of the Child, which means allowing refugees from Syria to register their children's births regardless of visa status.
- Lebanon must allow Syrian refugee children to register for secondary school and take their exams even if their visas have expired, in accordance with Lebanon's obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to make secondary education available and accessible to every child. Lebanon must also publish clear and transparent information about administrative procedures relating to refugees' stay, legal status, and rights in Lebanon.
Measures can and should also be immediately taken on the level of the international community to end Lebanon's cold war on refugees from Syria, a crisis-torn country where it is claimed more than 76,000 people were killed in 2014, including almost 18,000 civilians.
A couple of examples: First, while donor states should continue to assist the Lebanese government to meet the needs of the Syrian refugee and local populations, they should suspend aid to Lebanon, including military aid, while they investigate to what extent municipalities receiving their assistance are imposing unlawful and discriminatory restrictions on Syrian refugees. If such reports are shown to be accurate, donor countries should immediately suspend that assistance until Lebanon complies with international humanitarian law on the subject of refugees.
Secondly, while it is not this observer's right to advise the government of Syria on how to conduct its foreign relations, and taking note of the important fact that Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul Karim Ali, said this weekend in a statement quoted by Lebanon's National News Agency that his country urged Lebanese "coordination" with Damascus, his government can do rather more.
Syria's Foreign Ministry can employ the same "reciprocity principle" of international relations that Lebanon continues to illegally use against the Palestinian refugees here for the sole purpose of denying them the elementary civil rights to work and to own a home. Syria can and should tell Lebanon's 'government' that unless the discriminatory measures taken against her temporary refugee citizens seeking refuge in "Brotherly Lebanon", Damascus may employ the identical restrictive visa measures against Lebanese citizens seeking to enter Syria. This visa reciprocity measure is nearly universally applied among nations and determines how tough or easy to make it for each country's citizens to enter the other's.
This action by Syria may well help Lebanese officials remember the treatment the people of Syria granted to the countless thousands of Lebanese who stormed into Syria during the July 2006 Zionist aggression against Lebanon that killed hundreds of Lebanese and destroyed much of the country's road, electric, and social service infrastructure and housing. This observer arrived in Damascus from Washington in mid-July 2006, and recalls as if it were last summer, the Syrian people opening their homes and hearts to Lebanese refugees. I visited and also saw first-hand vacant apartments, schools, civic centers, two hospitals and clinics, parks opened to the Lebanese refugees. The Syrian people asked nothing in return. Lebanese were given free clothes and household necessities, medical, dental, optical and psychiatric care because they were refugees and needed help. Also food and cash vouchers.
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