10. Januar 2016 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Beirut: Hunderte nach Damaskus abgeschoben · Kategorien: Libanon, Syrien · Tags:

Migration News

Middle-East: Hundreds of Syrians Are Turned Back at Beirut Airport

As a domino effect of border closures in Europe, Turkey, pressured by the European Union, is now applying visas to Syrian nationals, whom everyone knows are genuine refugees fleeing a bloody civil war and to whom Turkey will in effect never deliver visas. The consequences are immediate. Lebanon forcibly returns the refugees to Syria, in violation of the non-refoulement principle. This consequence was foreseeable and Turkey was fully aware or this: it too violated the non-refoulement principle “par ricochet”. Although neither country has any obligation under the 1951 Refugee Convention (Turkey has a geographical limitation and Lebanon hasn’t ratified it at all), the principle is now considered jus cogens.

European countries should also be held responsible: they count on such human rights violations by transit countries – which they pressure or financially induce into adopting repressive policies – to serve as deterrence for potential future migrants. The fact that this deterrence has never seemed to effectively materialise doesn’t seem to refrain Europe’s enthusiasm for proxy containment mechanisms.

Such repressive policies will only compound the problems faced by refugees and increase the human rights violations against them. They will push the Syrians into the hands of smugglers and increase the underground market for mobility services. The number of migrants reaching Europe will probably diminish slightly in the short term, but not meaningfully over the long run. The number of deaths at sea will likely rise, as more people will try their luck going around the barriers and new sea routes will be developed.

The shortsightedness and insensitivity of such policies are dumbfounding.



The New York Times

Hundreds of Syrians Are Turned Back at Beirut Airport


BEIRUT, Lebanon — Four hundred Syrians who were trying to fly to Turkey were stopped at the Beirut airport on Friday and were being forced to return to Damascus instead, in a chaotic episode that illustrated how options are narrowing for those trying to flee the war in Syria.

The state-run National News Agency of Lebanon said that the passengers were being turned back because of new Turkish regulations that require Syrians to have a visa to enter the country by air or sea. The new rules, which took effect Friday, close off what had been the easiest way out of the country for Syrians who could afford airfare, and the primary route for those planning to try to reach Western Europe on smugglers’ boats.

It was not clear how many of the 400 passengers were refugees.

Many of those who were turned back on Friday had apparently been rushing to reach Turkey before the new visa rules took effect. Border crossings between Syria and Lebanon have been crowded in recent days with people intending to travel on to Turkey. (It is not possible now to fly there directly from Syria.)

Human rights groups quickly raised the question of whether the deportations violated Lebanon’s international obligation to refrain from sending refugees back to countries where they may be in danger.

“By forcibly returning more than 100 refugees to Syria, the Lebanese government has stooped to a shocking new low, and is putting these people in mortal danger,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali of Amnesty International, referring to the first of several batches of passengers being sent back to Damascus. “This is an outrageous breach of Lebanon’s international obligations to protect all refugees fleeing bloodshed and persecution in Syria. The Lebanese government must halt all further deportations of refugees from Syria immediately.”

According to Amnesty International, the passengers who were turned away on Friday had been scheduled to fly to Turkey on Thursday, but their flights were canceled.

The authorities said that 164 of the passengers had gotten as far as boarding a flight on Friday, only to be pulled off as the plane was about to take off.

A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Tanju Bilgic, said the visa rules were intended to control “illegal immigration.” Turkey says its land border with Syria will remain open and that the country will continue to welcome Syrians as refugees. Turkey has closed the crossings several times during large surges of refugees, for example when thousands of Syrian Kurds fled last year from an assault on the border town of Kobani by militant Islamic State fighters.

Reaching the land border now would be very difficult for most Syrians, who would first have to pass through many different government, rebel and Islamic State checkpoints and traverse areas that are frequently hit by airstrikes.

There are now more than 1 million Syrians in Lebanon, and the new Turkish visa rules leave them with very few options if they must leave Lebanon in an emergency or for security reasons. The close relationship between Lebanon’s most powerful political faction, Hezbollah, and the Syrian government makes such situations common.

More than 4 million Syrians have fled the country’s five-year civil war, which has killed more than 250,000 people. Seven million more are displaced within the country. Syrians accounted for about half of the refugees and migrants who reached the European Union last year.

Syrians once enjoyed visa-free travel to many Arab countries, but the years of Arab uprisings, sectarian conflicts and refugee flows have prompted many countries to impose new barriers to travel.

Lebanon, too, has tightened restrictions and now requires Syrians who enter the country to have plane tickets, hotel reservations, business plans, employer sponsorship or proof of an urgent humanitarian need.

Jordan does not require visas, but some Syrians are interrogated and deported on arrival at the Amman airport, and most of Jordan’s land borders are effectively closed, leaving would-be entrants languishing in desolate areas along the frontier.

The episode in Beirut on Friday unfolded on a day of turbulent wind and waves on the Mediterranean Sea, which can be seen from the airport. Humanitarian activists posted warnings on social media that it was an especially bad day for migrants to attempt a sea crossing.

Reporting was contributed by Hwaida Saad in Beirut, Ceylan Yeginsu in Istanbul, and Rana F. Sweis in Amman, Jordan.


United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
Director, McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism

Hans & Tamar Oppenheimer Professor in Public International Law
Faculty of Law, McGill University
#606, New Chancellor Day Hall
3644 Peel, Montreal QC H3A 1W9 CANADA

Tel: +1 (514) 398-2961

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