In Wake of New Lebanese Border Restrictions, United States Should Champion Protection for Syrian Refugees
AMMAN, Jordan – In response to Lebanon’s new border restrictions that could prevent many Syrian refugees fleeing violence from accessing needed protection, Human Rights First today urged the United States and the international community to increase aid to front-line states that are hosting the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees. The organization also called on the U.S. government and other countries to press Lebanon, Jordan, and other states bordering Syria to allow refugees fleeing persecution and violence to cross borders in search of international protection.
“The already limited escape routes for Syrian refugees are closing, leaving many Syrians trapped inside to face violence and torture,” warned Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer, who is currently in the region to assess the challenges facing Syrian refugees. “Under international law, states must allow refugees fleeing for their lives to cross borders in order to access protection. One critical lesson learned from World War II is that when states close their borders to refugees fleeing persecution, tragedies result.”
The new regulations issued today by the Lebanese government reportedly limit entry visas to tourists, business visitors and a few other categories. There is no category for refugees fleeing persecution, and reports have indicated that Syrians fleeing the war have already been turned away from the Lebanese border. While there are some indications that there may be some humanitarian exceptions allowed, there is no indication that Lebanon will continue to allow the bulk of refugees entitled to seek protection under international law to cross its border with Syria.
Front-line states including Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey are already hosting tremendous numbers of refugees. UNHCR statistics indicate that 1.1 million Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, and over 625,000 have been registered in Jordan. The United States is the leading donor to efforts to address the Syria refugee crisis, but the states hosting the bulk of these refugees continue to struggle to address the needs of the refugees along with the substantial pressures the increased population is putting on their own infrastructures. Human Rights First addressed many of these challenges in its report, “Refuge at Risk: The Syria Crisis and U.S. Leadership.”
“The United States and other donor states should immediately increase their assistance to these front-line states, and should make clear that they expect these countries to abandon restrictions on entry that prevent legitimate refugees from crossing their borders,” added Acer.