HRW condemns ‘pressure’ on Syrians to leave Lebanon

BEIRUT (AFP) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday condemned Lebanon’s order for Syrian refugees to demolish their hard shelters as tantamount to “illegitimate pressure” on them to return to their war-torn country.

Lebanon, a country of some four million people, said it hosts at least 1.5 million Syrians on its soil after they fled the eight-year civil war next door, many living in informal settlements in the country’s east.

Nearly a million are registered as refugees with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

To discourage any permanent settlement, Lebanese authorities gave Syrians living in the region of Arsal until July 1 to demolish shelters made of anything but timber and plastic sheeting.

Families have been forced to tear down any small cinderblock room they may have built, with the army stepping in to destroy at least 20 remaining hard shelters as the deadline passed on Monday.