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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December 20, 2016

The Daily Star- Syrians question power, purpose of minister for refugees, December 20 , 2016

SIDON: With the establishment of a new ministry dedicated to refugee affairs, displaced Syrians in Lebanon are raising questions over the role the ministry will play to mitigate the challenges they face. Minister Mouin Merehbi was appointed as the first minister of state for refugee affairs in Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s newly formed 30-member Cabinet Sunday after weeks of deliberations.
Speaking to The Daily Star outside their makeshift homes near the mouth of the Zahrani River, Syrian refugees expressed both doubt and hope over what the new minister can achieve in the role.
“We can’t please anyone, no matter what we say. Our tragedy is bigger than just appointing a minister,” said Abu Jasem al-Homsi near the informal settlement where he lives.
“The issue of refugees is a complicated one that includes humanitarian, political and security aspects, and we won’t see any benefit [from the formation of the ministry]. What can a minister do if the United Nations couldn’t end our misery?”
Homsi’s sentiment was shared by other refugees The Daily Star spoke to who expressed distrust and doubt.
Despite many attempts, the newly minted Cabinet member couldn’t be reached by The Daily Star for comment and clarification about the ministry’s duties.
Lebanon has seen a massive influx of refugees since the beginning of the war in neighboring Syria in 2011.
There are over 1 million Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in Lebanon, many of whom live in informal tented settlements across the country. The government, however, estimates the actual number is much higher.
In addition to Syrian refugees, Lebanon hosts just under 500,000 Palestinian refugees who are registered with the U.N. body for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. The majority of these families live in 12 refugee camps across the country.
Many of the refugees at the camp near the Zahrani River came from Deraa in Syria, and like many of their compatriots in Lebanon, are living in ill-equipped tents.
Katba al-Mohammad, 60, said forming a ministry to manage the affairs of refugees would only bring more trouble.
She was worried at first that the ministry would force military conscription on Syrian refugees, and expressed relief when she heard that the minister’s job would most likely not have a military aspect to it.
But until it is clear what the ministry’s purview will be, rumors and false expectations could spread.
Mohammad invited Merehbi to visit their camp “so that he can see the bad conditions we are living in.”
The refugees have many demands for Merehbi, but the most prevalent is the request to be well-treated. Many said they wanted him to work to ensure they are not discriminated against or branded as terrorists.
Firas Mansour al-Sayah, who fled to Lebanon from Deraa, expressed hope that Merehbi would be able to act in a humanitarian way. “Give us some respect,” she said, denouncing some of the residency restrictions placed on Syrian refugees.
Kamel Kozbar, chair of the Union of Relief Organizations, said that establishing a ministry that deals with the affairs of refugees and assigning Merehbi as a minister is a step in the right direction.
Nevertheless, Kozbar questioned the jurisdictions, limitations and powers the minister will be given.
“Although this [forming a ministry to deal with refugee matters] is a late step, it is better than not happening at all,” Kozbar explained.
“What is important is that there is cooperation between the minister and civil society organizations because civil society embraced the refugees since the beginning.”

Source & Link : The Daily Star

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