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“Souddek! Souddek!” It was in these terms, that the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, lifted the parliamentary session, on Wednesday. The meeting lasted four hours and was intended to discuss the European donation of one billion euros.

It was also in these terms that recommendations regarding the Syrian migrants’ crisis were approved in full speed, without actually being so, in complete chaos. A large number of the MPs protested against this vote and expressed reservations on the recommendations, saying that they were not informed earlier of their content. The final document had been made public a few minutes before the start of the session.

MPs took turns at the podium to debate the issue of the aid granted by the European Union to “support Lebanon in managing its economic crisis and the Syrian presence on its territory.” The results of this debate were revealed a week earlier, both by sources close to the Council presidency and by the European Union Ambassador to Lebanon, Sandra de Waele. When interviewed by This Is Beirut following the announcement of the funds granted to Lebanon, de Waele and officials from the Prime Minister’s office ruled out any possibility of refusal of the European aid by Lebanese MPs: “This will not happen,” they assured, confident. These statements were confirmed on Wednesday. The donation was accepted, the sum of one billion euros will be disbursed to Lebanon over a period of three years, and the Syrians will remain in Lebanon, pending the implementation of a “return plan.”


According to the final document approved by Parliament, the issue of the massive presence of Syrians in Lebanon would be resolved in accordance with the following 9 points:

  • The establishment of a ministerial commission (already existing), chaired by the caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati. It would be comprized of the following members: the caretaker ministers of Defense, Interior, Displaced Persons, Social Affairs, one member from the army command, and from security forces. It would be in charge of coordinating with various stakeholders, regionally and internationally, including the Syrian government, to develop a detailed, time-limited plan for the repatriation of irregular migrants.
  • Reaffirming Lebanon’s commitment to implementing the memorandum of understanding signed in 2003 by the General Security Directorate and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The text stipulates that the UNHCR undertakes to “relocate asylum seekers to a third country other than Lebanon within six months, exceptionally renewable once.” The UN organization should also provide Lebanon with the statistics and databases it has, in accordance with the provisions of the aforementioned memorandum. The UNHCR would undertake to coordinate with its office in Syria to facilitate the return of migrants to their country of origin.
  • Strict application of the 1962 law regulating the entry and stay of foreigners in Lebanon as well as their exit from the country.
  • Repatriation of Syrian detainees held in Lebanese prisons, according to legal procedures in force.
  • Urging the international community and donors to support the army and security forces in border control and coordinate with the Syrian government to limit migratory flows to Lebanon via illegal crossings.
  • Soliciting the United Nations, the UNHCR and donors to financially support Syrians in their country so that no funding is provided inside Lebanon.
  • Making use of UN resolutions, especially those related to the reconstruction of Syria, to facilitate Syrian return.
  • Insisting, with international bodies, and especially at the Brussels conference for Syria, scheduled for May 27, on the danger posed by the massive Syrian presence in Lebanon and Lebanon’s inability to bear such a burden.
  • The government undertakes to comply with the recommendations and to submit to Parliament a quarterly report on the progress of their implementation.

Divergences on Modalities

While parliamentarians agreed on the danger of the massive presence of Syrians in Lebanon and the need to proceed with their repatriation in accordance with existing laws, there were nevertheless differences regarding the modalities of implementing the return process. Thus, for the Lebanese Forces MPs, the problem will be solved “when Lebanon exercises its sovereignty over its territory” and proceeds, according to the laws, “to expel illegal Syrians to their country.”

According to the Kataeb party, the solution will not materialize in the “absence of a political will to do so.”

The Free Patriotic Movement, on the other hand, considers that “European aid is conditional funding, aimed at keeping Syrians in Lebanon.”

Hezbollah for its part, stated that it “does not want to expel migrants by sea, but that Lebanon should not insist on preventing them from emigrating by sea.” The Amal movement believes that “the Syrian crisis file must be dealt with in Syria and not in Lebanon.”

Be that as it may, and however lengthy the pleas of the different MPs defending what seemed to be a common cause, the result is one: European aid has been approved, Europe will be able to protect its borders, Syria will continue to use the migrant card to pressure the international community to lift sanctions, Syrians’ number will continue to multiply in a country where density is becoming one of the highest in the world…