Beirut, Lebanon – On Monday, Lebanon turned back dozens of Syrians who were trying to cross the border, under strict new visa regulations, saying it simply cannot handle any more people displaced by the ongoing civil war.
The policy, requiring Syrians to obtain visas that sharply limit the time they can stay in Lebanon, effectively narrows one of the few escape routes left from a conflict that has displaced a third of Syria’s pre-war population and shows no sign of ending.
Humanitarian groups dealing with Syrian refugees say authorities should not close the doors on people who are desperate to leave.
Leading politician Walid Jumblatt said there should be difference in dealing with “refugees who are fleeing death and destruction in Syria after they lost their homes,” and those who come to Lebanon for political activities.
“The vast majority of them left Syria because of fear of war, and they are innocent,” Jumblatt said in comments published Monday in his party’s weekly al-Anbaa.
Lebanese officials say they can’t absorb any more, estimating there are about 1.5 million Syrians in Lebanon, about one-quarter of the total population. Some 1.1 million are registered with the U.N.’s refugee agency.
“We have enough. There’s no capacity anymore to host more displaced,” Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said at a televised news conference.
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