The Lebanese authorities have set a deadline on June 9 after which all “semi-permanent” refugee shelters in the border region of Arsal will be demolished. INGOs warn that it could make 15,000 Syrian children homeless. In Syria hundreds of people have reportedly been arrested, interrogated and in some cases tortured after returning.

According to a joint statement from Save the Children, World Vision and Terre des Hommes Foundation the deadline set by the Higher Defense Council relates to “all ‘semi-permanent structures’ built by Syrian refugees using materials other than timber and plastic sheeting.” The demolishing of 5,000 structures in Arsal in Northeastern Lebanon could make 25,000 people including 15,000 children homeless. “Many of these families are very poor, barely making ends meet and put food on the table. If their homes are demolished, they have no means of rebuilding them or paying rent elsewhere. For a child who barely eats, and often doesn’t go to school, losing a home is extremely traumatic”, said Country Representative for Terre des hommes Foundation, Piotr Sasin.

The Lebanese authorities does not allow the establishment of formal camps for Syrian refugees and the pressure on Syrians to return is increasing with 74 per cent now lacking legal residency and being at risk of deportation.

Reports of hundreds of Syrians being harassed and extorted by Security Agencies, facing detention and in some cases torture and being forced to inform of political activities of family members, have emerged. A young man who returned to government held areas outside of Damascus told the National Post under anonymity: “People are still being taken by the secret police, and communities are living between suspicion and fear […] When they come to your door, you cannot say no. You just have to go with them.”

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights nearly 2,000 people have been detained upon return to Syria within the past two years, and hundreds more have been arrested in areas formerly under control by armed forces opposing the government.

UNHCR estimates that 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011 and another 6.6 million people are internally displaced.

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Photo (CC): Pekka Tiainen, EU/ECHO, June 2013

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.