LEBANON (OBSERVATORY) – Hundreds of Syrians, who have been refugees for years in Lebanon, left for home on Wednesday in a rare collective return to Syrians who have left their country since the civil war broke out in 2011.
About 500 people, including children and elderly people, left the southern Shebaa Farms area in 15 buses heading for Beit Jan south-west of Damascus, which the government seized from opposition fighters in December. Buses arrived at the Lebanese border on Wednesday before crossing into Syria.
Younis Osman, 31, who worked in agriculture in Syria and is now returning home after four years in Lebanon, said he knew nothing about his city but expressed his happiness to return.
The Lebanese national news agency said the Lebanese authorities had organized the convoy. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement that it did not participate in organizing the return of these people or other convoys at this time due to the humanitarian situation and security prevailing in Syria.
More than half of Syria’s population before the war fled their homes since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, including over one million asylum seekers in Lebanon and now account for more than a quarter of the country’s population.
Some prominent Lebanese politicians, including President Michel Aoun, are calling for the return of Syrian refugees to the quieter regions of Syria, but the United Nations says they should not be forced to return.