Home > English, Press Articles > Borders shut down in face of refugees fleeing Syria

Borders shut down in face of refugees fleeing Syria

The Daily Star, May 20 2011

TRIPOLI: The flood of Syrian refugees into northern Lebanon stopped Thursday, as the Syrian and Lebanese armies deployed to close the border.

The Syrian army gained control over villages near the Lebanese border and intensified its activity at border crossings, according to residents in the area.

The residents said that after they heard gunfire in Arida early Thursday, the Syrian army fully deployed and Syrian tanks entered the town.

Syrian border guards also asserted their control over the border stretching along the Al-Kabir River, preventing Syrians from fleeing to Lebanon, while the Lebanese Army strengthened their position on the other side.

Ahmad Sayyed, a local from the border area, told The Daily Star that the border was completely closed, as neither the Syrian army nor its Lebanese counterpart was allowing any refugees to cross the border in either direction.

“The Lebanese Army prevented Syrians from even returning to their villages to check up on their relatives and families,” Sayyed said.

Sayyed said that a survey by Lebanon’s Higher Relief Committee counted 500 Syrian refugee families, totaling 6,500 individuals, who are taking refuge in Wadi Khaled and other villages in Akkar.

As for the humanitarian situation, Sayyed said many of the refugees were in need of health services, warning that the Red Cross, despite its efforts to assist refugees, lacked the necessary supplies and manpower.

Most of the refugees crossed into Lebanon over the weekend, escaping a crackdown by Syrian authorities in the town of Tall Kalakh, which is 5 kilometers from the border with Lebanon.

Samira Trad, who heads the NGO Frontiers Ruwad told The Daily Star Thursday that Lebanese authorities were not transparent in providing information on the fate of Syrians refugees.

According to Human Rights Watch, six Syrian civilians, including one minor, were arrested for entering Lebanon illegally by the Lebanese Army in Wadi Khaled late Monday, and were transferred to the custody of General Security the following day.

Trad condemned the Lebanese Army’s decision to close the border, which prevented the entry of Syrian refugees seeking protection, saying the decision constitutes a violation of human rights and U.N. charters.

“Lebanon should uphold its international commitments and provide medical, and humanitarian assistance to those fleeing Syria,” Trad said. – with additional reporting by Youssef Diab

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