More than 250 refugees in 'mortal danger' after being forcibly returned to war-torn Syria from Lebanon

Amnesty International has slammed Lebanese authorities for 'stooping to a new low' by placing the refugees in danger

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The Independent Online

More than 250 refugees who arrived at Beirut airport are in “mortal danger” after being forcibly returned to war-torn Syria by Lebanese authorities, Amnesty International has said. 

The refugees, who arrived at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri airport with the intention of travelling on to Turkey, were unable to board their connecting Turkish Airlines flights after new visa restrictions came into effect on Friday. 

The new rules, imposed by Turkish authorities overnight, require Syrians arriving in the country by air and sea to have visas – for six years refugees have been allowed to enter visa-free for up to 90 days. Those who missed the deadline on Friday were forced to return to their Syrian homes, facing detention on arrival. 

On Friday a group of 100 refugees were returned, then later in the day a further group of 150 who were stranded at the airport in Beirut were also flown to Syria, Amnesty told The Independent.

Speaking to AFP, Fadi al-Hassan, the head of Beirut international airport, said Syrian airline "Cham Wings is now returning 370 Syrian passengers to Damascus". He added: "A plane has already transported the first group, and we are waiting two more groups."

The decision by Lebanese authorities to deport the refugees back to Syria has been slammed by the leading human rights group Amnesty International which added that the country had “stooped to a shocking new low” and have placed the refugees “in mortal danger”. 

“This is an outrageous breach of Lebanon’s international obligations to protect all refugees fleeing bloodshed and persecution in Syria. The Lebanese government must halt all further deportations of Syrian refugees immediately,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of refugees and migrants’ rights at Amnesty International. 

He added: “The new visa regulations in Turkey present yet another hurdle for Syrian desperate to seek sanctuary from the conflict and show what devastating consequences such restrictions can have for refugees.” 

Turkey and Lebanon host the highest numbers of Syrian refugees, with 2.2 million living in Turkish territories and just over one million in Lebanon.