BEIRUT: General Security is set to deport three refugees who fled war and persecution in their native Sudan, a representative of a local group working for the rights of migrant workers said Wednesday.
The representative from the Anti-Racism Movement, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the organization had received information about the refugees from the families of those set to be deported. The Daily Star could not immediately contact the families.
Some time after their arrival in Lebanon, the three men were recognized as refugees by the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, the representative said. One of the men, Ali, received refugee status in 2013 and has been detained for seven months. Another, Adam, was recognized in 2014 and has been detained since July.
The representative did not provide details on the third man. According to the representative, the date of the deportation remains unknown.
The three men have allegedly been denied access to lawyers throughout their detention, the representative said, adding that they had also allegedly not been given a chance to challenge their deportation order. They had, however, met with representatives from the UNHCR during their detention.
The representative said the three men had initially been arrested for not having valid residency papers and that the men fell under Lebanon’s notorious “kafala” sponsorship program, whereby the residence of migrant workers is legally bound to a single employer.
The representative said that despite being recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, the three men still technically needed a kafeel, or “legal sponsor,” to live in the country, because Lebanon is not a party to 1951 Refugee Convention. The kafala system has faced international condemnation for facilitating abuse, by both employers and the state.
A General Security spokesperson said the agency had no information on the case and that it would be “difficult” to find the information.
In response to a request for comment, UNHCR Lebanon shared a statement with The Daily Star saying that the agency “cannot share information regarding individuals of concern to UNHCR.”
The statement added, “However, protecting refugees from harm, including from being returned to danger, is UNHCR’s global mandate. In all countries, UNHCR advocates for respect of the principle of non-refoulement, and intervenes with the authorities when required to avoid that refugees be returned to situations where their life or freedom is at risk.”
Although Lebanon is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines the term “refugee” and outlines the rights of the displaced, the forcible deportation of refugees, known as “refoulement,” contravenes international law.
In a statement published Tuesday, ARM said that local NGOs “have received reports that Lebanese authorities have deported at least eight other non-Syrian refugees this year, over UNHCR’s objections.”