UN: Return of refugees to Syria should be done after confirmation of safety

United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag reiterated on Wednesday the UN position that any return of refugees to the country of origin be voluntary and be done in conditions of safety and dignity.

Kaag said: “This is a central principle of international law. Whether or not it will be possible to have in Syria in the near future areas where refugees will be willing to go back, it’s something impossible to answer right now. We seem to be far from having it at that level, because the situation remains very fragile and the conflict continues in a very dramatic way.”

Kaag added that there is no talk of the permanent settlement of refugees in Lebanon. “It is always temporary,” she stressed.

In turn, Lazzarini focused on the UN’s support to Lebanon’s stability and socio-economic stabilization, including from the impact of the Syrian crisis and over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“When we met in Brussels (in April), we said collectively what we have done has not been sufficient to reverse the tide. …Hence, we need to have a new approach to complement our collective effort in the country,” he said.

Kaag and Lazzarini were speaking in a dialogue they held with the Beirut-based media on the UN’s role and priorities in Lebanon. The focus was on the UN’s “whole of Lebanon approach” that takes into consideration support for Lebanon’s peace and security, stability, and stabilization.