The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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July 16, 2016

The Daily Star- Syrian refugees in Baalbek complain of discrimination, July 16 , 2016

BAALBEK, Lebanon: Under the scorching sun, Mohammad, 27, often searches for a job in the district of Baalbek until the late afternoon. A Syrian man from Aleppo with tar-stained teeth, he says the municipality has maintained a curfew on refugees who are languishing in tented settlements in the area. “The problem is we can’t work at night anymore,” said Mohammad, whose full name has not been disclosed for fear of reprisal. “After 7 o’clock I must stay in the camp. The situation used to be relatively better, but now if I leave the camp there will be checkpoints everywhere.”
After a wave of suicide bombers attacked the border village of Al-Qaa on June 27, the governor of Baalbek, Bashir Khodor, imposed what was supposed to be a temporary curfew on Syrian nationals.
Rights groups have said that such measures are part of a greater security plan that frames refugees as first and foremost a threat to national security. And with the Baalbek International Festival fast approaching, many worry that harsher measures might be taken.
In Lebanon, enforcing curfews to monitor the movement of refugees isn’t a new phenomenon and neither are the consequences. A 2014 Human Rights Watch report revealed that at least 45 municipalities imposed a curfew on Syrians, many of which were enforced after clashes broke out between extremist groups and the Lebanese Army in the border village of Arsal.
But while curfews have become a common reaction from municipal authorities after insurgent attacks, such measures have achieved little besides punishing refugees for their displacement while exacerbating tensions in the community.
Wadih Al-Asmar, the president of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, noted that the practice of imposing curfews is discriminatory regardless of the justifications for it.
“We are not solving our [security] issues by imposing these measures. It’s only increasing tensions,” he told The Daily Star by phone. “Syrians are feeling that they are victims of injustice while Lebanese citizens who might already have aggressive [attitudes toward Syrians] might feel they have some legal impunity to attack them.”
Whether curfews are encouraging local residents to attack Syrians is less of a concern for Mohammad, who said that refugees fear reprisal from security forces more than anyone else. Just last week, 30 Syrian men were detained in Baalbek after their tented settlements were raided in the middle of the night.
“[The Army] thinks we are hiding terrorists and weapons in the camps,” Mohammad and his uncle Ahmad said. “If we had those things then we wouldn’t be here [in Lebanon]. We would be in our country fighting.”
Khodor defended the need to carry out raids in refugee camps before stating that the curfew in Baalbek was lifted two weeks ago, even though many Syrians remain unaware that it’s been removed.
“We know that some terrorists hide in the camps. That’s why we search the [camps] after attacks and occasionally from time to time,” Khodor told The Daily Star over the phone. “We only arrest people without papers. The refugees must understand that we have a fragile country. They must collaborate.”
Due to complicated and expensive residency renewal regulations, over two-thirds of Syrian refugees are estimated to be dwelling without legal status in the country, putting many at risk of violence and detainment from residents and local authorities.
Municipalities have also asked the government to help them establish local police forces in order to combat a perceived increase of criminal activity. The government has often granted their request even though official crime statistics don’t support municipality claims, according to a joint report released by Oxfam and the American University of Beirut last year. Even worse, local police forces haven’t received adequate training to apply the law.
The same report stated that a lack of legal awareness has resulted in some municipalities violating the very laws that they are supposed to uphold. Curfews, for instance, are illegal unless they are endorsed by the Cabinet. That matters little to some locals in Baalbek who said that discriminatory measures against Syrians are retaliation for straining the town’s limited resources.
“How can I like Syrian people when they take my job and kill my people?” said one man in a wheelchair and scruffy beard outside the entrance of the Baalbek Municipality building.
“What [municipalities] are doing to Syrian refugees has more to do with punishing them [for their displacement] than protecting their citizens,” Asmar said.
While raids and curfews remain common throughout the country, they may only succeed in pushing young men further to the fringes of society. Many are harassed by security forces and can’t find any work, fueling a collective sentiment of victimhood and injustice.
Baalbek residents, like those living in other impoverished regions around the country, share a similar feeling. They have shouldered a considerable part of the refugee crisis burden despite suffering from years of government neglect and poverty.
Khodor also emphasized that Lebanon is a fragile country which the international community is relying on to mitigate a crisis of unprecedented magnitude.
While that’s certainly the case, discriminatory policies seem to have only exacerbated a climate of anger while diverting attention away from the roots of extremism.
“We escaped bombings and terrorists to come to [Lebanon],” Mohammad said. “We are a peaceful population and peaceful people. We just want to live in peace.”

Source & Link : The Daily Star

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