Minister of the Displaced Communicates with Syria for the Repatriation
Refugees: Why Now?
In an interview conducted
by the Middle East Newspaper, Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea wondered
why “the Free Patriotic Movement ministers and their allies failed to
communicate with the Syrian regime during the governments of former Prime
Ministers Najib Mikati and Tammam Salam, to secure the return of Syrian refugees”,
consequently undermining the fact that during PM Mikati’s government (2011), the
war in Syria was (brutally) raging and more than 70% of Syrian territories were
under terrorists’ control, making the “return” practically impossible. Nevertheless,
the Free Patriotic Movement did much more than other Lebanese parties to
control the randomized influx of Syrian refugees by proposing various efficient
solutions during PM Salam’s government in 2014, some of which were:
· - Completing a
comprehensive survey/census of all Syrian displaced and keeping track of their numbers
· - Enforcing the
registration of all Syrians refugees and their families.
· - Granting refugees work
permits that can be monitored and revoked as deemed necessary.
· - Registering all
Syrian births in the Syrian Embassy in Lebanon.
· - Deporting all
habitual offenders and potential criminals.
· - Controlling the
borders and preventing mass migrations.
· - Limiting entry to
extreme humanitarian cases.
And most important was
(and still is) the adamant opposition of Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran
Bassil to the Naturalization Project, despite United Nations Secretary
General’s 2016 initiative impelling all hosting countries to grant citizenship
to Syrian refugees. In addition, Minister Bassil strived to enforce the registration
of all Syrian births in refugee camps to avoid cases of undisclosed records and
“no nationality” statuses that might predispose those individuals to claim the
nationality of the country they live in.
So, no, FPM ministers and
their allies did not “fail” to communicate with the Syrian regime in past
governments; instead, and in the face of a ghastly and complex ongoing war,
they offered operative solutions and created effective processes to control and
minimize the detrimental effects of a multifaceted crisis of massive magnitude.
They deftly compromised while other Lebanese factions and the international
community watched in shameful silence.
But now, the situation is
different. With about 85% of Syria’s territories under government control, the
“safe” and “dignified” return of Syrian refugees that President Aoun and
Minister Bassil have long advocated for has become possible and favorable. With
the doors tightly closed to naturalization and re-settlement, the time has come
to communicate with the Syrian regime and the international community to endorse
and support the only solution to the displacement crisis.