A roadmap to regulate the situation of displaced Syrians in Lebanon was launched on Tuesday. It tackles “the roots of the problem” and respects “the principle of non-refoulement,” as stated by the acting director of General Security, General Elias Baissari, at the document’s launch ceremony.

The document also aims to “improve relations between the Lebanese people and displaced Syrians, regulate the Syrian presence and deal with its impact, the ultimate goal being the voluntary return of displaced persons to their country or their relocation,” added General Baissari.

He recalled that, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – which Lebanon was able to obtain –, 1,486,000 displaced persons are in Lebanon. “As there is no record of when they entered Lebanon or when they registered with UNHCR, it is difficult to determine their legal status,” continued General Baissari, assuring that “this data will not be misused” and “will not be handed over to any third party.” He also affirmed that every effort would be made to apply the laws in force to all persons living in Lebanon.

General Baissari also assured that Lebanon “will not turn back the displaced,” stressing that a “voluntary return” convoy would be organized soon, without specifying the date. In this context, he asserted that “Lebanon is a country of transit, not a country of asylum.”

“We are keen to prevent an environment that favors integration and to combat illegal immigration, by controlling false passports and visas, as well as by controlling the movements of Syrians through Beirut airport and the various border crossings,” General Baissari added.

He called on the Lebanese to show “responsibility” by refusing to “employ, house or rent property to Syrians whose presence is illegal” but also to “work to protect the Lebanese workforce from illegal competition.”

He also pointed out that “unregistered births” are “one of the main and most dangerous obstacles to resolving this issue.” For this reason, he said, the Ministry of Social Affairs is working to implement the national strategy for the registration of births among displaced Syrians, in coordination with the committee formed for this purpose by representatives of the Ministry of Interior, as well as the UNHCR and other partners.

In addition, efforts are being made to “obtain from the international community an increase in Lebanon’s quota in the relocation program for displaced persons, in coordination with the General Security, as well as to relaunch the ‘voluntary return’ program,” said General Baissari. “The General Security continues to offer facilities and exemptions to displaced persons wishing to return voluntarily to their country, on the borders,” he indicated.

And General Baissari announced that a pilot project would be launched in an unnamed district to visit the gathering places of displaced Syrians, with a view to completing their files and updating the data on those already registered.

For his part, the caretaker Minister of Interior, Bassam Mawlawi, asserted that Lebanon “is willing to negotiate with the international and Arab communities to achieve a strategy for the return of displaced Syrians within a set timeframe.”

We will not accept that the Lebanese be displaced or that they be unable to find employment,” he insisted. “We are responsible for preserving Lebanon’s image and its rights.”