The Lebanese government has warned of a new wave of Syrian refugees despite efforts by the state to return the displaced to their homeland.
The new displacement, which threatens to exacerbate economic and social conditions, is seen as the largest since hundreds of thousands of Syrians fled to Lebanon following the widespread protests that turned into an armed confrontation in 2012.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati chaired on Thursday a meeting to discuss the issue of refugees. The meeting was attended by Caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine, Acting Chief of General Security Major General Elias Baysari, and Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council Major General Mohammad Mostafa.
Charafeddine said the meeting focused on the new wave of Syrian displacement that began three weeks ago, adding it constitutes a dangerous phenomenon as the displaced continue to enter Lebanon via illegal crossings.
He indicated that the meeting discussed a mechanism to deter this, stressing the importance of border control and coordination with the Syrian competent authorities.
The minister warned against harboring refugees, mainly since smuggling networks are operating regularly on both sides of the border.
Four border guard brigades are deployed in the northern and eastern regions on the border with Syria, but they are unable to monitor all crossings, which makes it easier for smuggling networks to operate on both sides.
A security source revealed that the Lebanese army arrested 850 Syrian people during August, whether on the border or at the checkpoints in Wadi Khaled, Shudra, Akrum, Hermel, al-Qasr, and others.
The source confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the army deploys about 4,000 soldiers on the northern and eastern borders with Syria, but the issue of controlling the 370 km borderline is difficult and complex.
The army closed dozens of crossings over the past weeks, said the source, but infiltrations continue because active networks on the Lebanese and Syrian sides coordinate to facilitate smuggling operations.
Meanwhile, the mayor of al-Amayer in Wadi Khaled, Ahmed al-Sheikh, asserted that municipalities "are not responsible for controlling borders and preventing infiltration.”
He confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Land Border Regiment is tasked with clamping down on smugglers, admitting activists were helping the displaced persons enter Lebanon.
Sheikh noted that every unemployed Lebanese or Syrian person in Lebanon has taken advantage of the situation and became active in smuggling operations, adding that the current wave of displacement comes from the areas controlled by the regime.