DAMASCUS, Lebanon, May 6 (UPI) -- Lebanon has forcibly returned 41 Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria, human rights activists claim.
The deportations came over the weekend and without regard to the dangers the refugees face, the activist group Human Rights Watch said, noting the policy violates the principle of “non-refoulment,” which forbids nations from returning asylum seekers to places where their lives or freedom could be threatened.
A spokesman of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said it was given assurances by Lebanese officials the policy was short-term, but did not explain the motive for the change in policy.
Human Rights Watch said it spoke to two men being deported for using fraudulent visas, part of a group of about three dozen, who remained on the Lebanon-Syria border Sunday at Masnaa as the rest of the group re-entered Syria. The fate of the group remains unknown.
The U.N. agency said Lebanon has taken in over a million refugees from Syria in the past three years, including about 50,000 Palestinians. U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness said Lebanon was in need of increased financial and humanitarian assistance from the international community.