Lebanon accuses UNHCR of preventing Syrian refugees from returning home

Lebanon has accused the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials of intimidating Syrian refugees to prevent their return to their homes.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Friday said the UN refugee agency hindered the return of refugees by “spreading fear” and ordered a freeze on residency applications from staff working for the UN refugee agency “until further instructions are issued.”

Lebanon hosts an estimated 1.5 million people who were displaced by the war in neighboring Syria.

UNHCR has denied the accusations saying it was carrying out its global mandate of providing support to refugees and help them re-establish their lives in line with international standards.

There are reportedly about 600 staff working at UNHCR in Lebanon but the vast majority of them are Lebanese.

In April, the UNHCR had suggested that a government-organized return of 500 refugees was premature, explaining that it was not involved due to the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria.

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