1.5 million Syrian refugees are in Lebanon today. But as the fighting quells in areas of Syria, some of these refugees are considering returning home.
Who gets to return, the places to which they will return, and the circumstances under which refugees move back to Syria are intensely political decisions. As journalist Charlotte Alfred explains, the return of refugees, albeit in small numbers, has begun. And it is becoming a tactic of the civil war.
Charlotte Alfred is the managing director of the news website Refugees Deeply. Her recent longform article Dangerous Exit: Who Decides How Syrians in Lebanon Go Home explains the geopolitical calculations and the tactical military considerations behind these refugee returns; and on an individual level she explores the deeply personal dilemmas facing individual refugees as they make this decision.
The UN Refugee Agency is not aiding in the return of refugees to Syria. They have concluded that the situation in Syria is not safe enough to guarantee the security of returning refugees, and in fact, they have warned countries against returning refugees. But Lebanese and Syrian forces are working together to facilitate some returns.
The return of refugees and the politics around may define the next phase of this civil war and Charlotte Alfred has written the most important explanation of what that means.
A curious young Syrian refugee waits to be registered at a centre in Al Beereh. UNHCR/ Salah Malkawi/ July 2012.