Wednesday, May 25, 2011
By Mona Alami
"BEIRUT, May 25, 2011 (IPS) - Syrians from the border town Tell Khalakh have been fleeing a wave of violence over recent weeks to cross into neighboring Lebanon. But those seeking refuge now face an uncertain fate.
Syrian territory lies only a few hundred metres from the Wadi Khaled area in Lebanon, home to 17 villages scattered close to the Kabir River which runs along the border. "Naturally, we are happy to take them into our homes, but I fear that in a few weeks we will have a real humanitarian problem on our hands," Mahmoud Khazaal, former mayor of the Bayouk village tells IPS.
Syrian pro-democracy protests, which started over two months ago, have drawn fierce response from the government headed by President Bashar Assad, whose family has been in power for more than 30 years.
Since the conflict hit Tell Khalakh, some 5,000 people have escaped to Lebanon....
Others, such as Mohamad, talk about the dead that have been left lying in the streets of the village, and of the neighbourhoods that are constantly being bombed.
Refugees speak of masked men dressed in black fighting along soldiers, people they call ‘shabiha’."The members of the army’s fourth regiment have sent armed Alawites from surrounding villages to attack our homes," adds Souad. "We can’t go back.".......
Another problem that refugees face is their uncertain legal status in Lebanon. Some have been detained by Lebanese authorities. Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Lebanon's security forces have arrested nine Syrian men and one child since May 15, allegedly for crossing illegally into Lebanon.
"I know of 15 cases of refugees being detained. Many are injured refugees who are now guarded by Lebanese security forces at hospital," says Daher.
The Lebanese army, which has beefed up its presence on the borders, has said that it has arrested three Syrian soldiers considered deserters....
"We do not believe that women and children are a security threat, but deserters are a different matter," says a military source. "We had to hand the soldiers back to Syria because they do not qualify for refugee status as per theagreements existing between the two countries. We do not want to be perceived as interfering in Syrian internal affairs." "