BFF-64 UN urges Beirut to unblock residency permits for staff

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SYRIA-CONFLICT-LEBANON-UN-REFUGEES

UN urges Beirut to unblock residency permits for staff

GENEVA, June 12, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The UN refugee agency on Tuesday urged
Lebanon to reverse a decision to block residency permits for its
international staffers following a spat over Syrians displaced by the war.

The decision was announced on Friday by the office of Lebanese Foreign
Minister Gebran Bassil who has accused UNHCR of intimidating refugees to
prevent their return to Syria.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said the
agency was “very concerned” by the move.

“We hope the decision of the foreign ministry will be reversed without
delay,” he said.

Bassil had on Thursday pointed the finger at the agency in a posting on
Twitter.

“We sent a mission that verified that the UNHCR is intimidating the
displaced who wish to return voluntarily,” he tweeted.

UNHCR has denied the allegations but made clear it does not believe the
conditions in Syria are “conducive for an assisted return” — although a
spokesman said the situation was changing and that the agency was following
developments.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri had immediately moved to disassociate
himself from the move, with his office describing it as “unilateral” and “not
representative of the Lebanese government’s position”.

There are an estimated 1.5 million people displaced by the war in
neighbouring Syria in Lebanon — a figure representing more than a quarter of
its population before the conflict.

BSS/AFP/RY/1918 hrs