Lebanon has vowed that it will not deport six Syrian refugees, following an outcry by human rights organisations fearing that they could be detained and tortured by the Syrian authorities.

The six men entered the country irregularly and illegally. They were arrested and detained by Lebanese intelligence two weeks ago as they went to the Syrian Embassy to collect their passports.

After they were handed over to the General Security directorate and the Lebanese military announced their arrest, human rights groups such as Amnesty International urged the Lebanese authorities not to deport the men back to Syria due to the regime of Bashar al-Assad’s reputation for detaining and torturing returned Syrians.

Their release was particularly symbolic, given that five of the men are from the southern Syrian province of Daraa. This has been under siege and heavy bombardment over the past few months by the Assad regime and its allied Iran-backed militia.

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As Beirut has regularly deported Syrian refugees since May 2019, the government gave the lawyer for the six men an ultimatum for them to either decide on a third country to seek refuge in or to be deported back to Syria. That ultimatum was given despite the fact that their passports were still held at the Syrian Embassy.

That changed yesterday, however, when Lebanon’s General Security directorate announced that the six refugees are being allowed to remain in the country. “General Security will not deport the six Syrians and will work to regularise their legal status,” confirmed the head of the directorate, Abbas Ibrahim.

With over 850,000 Syrian refugees remaining in the country so far, some see Beirut’s decision not to deport the six men as a sign of hope that policies affecting the other Syrians in Lebanon could lighten, despite the ongoing political and economic crises the country is facing.

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