9 January 2015
New restrictions to Syrian nationals’ access to Lebanon took effect on 5 January, requiring Syrians to obtain a visa in order to enter the country. Syrians can apply for visas under the categories of tourism, work and business visits, student, medical treatment, transit, short stays, and special relations to the country. Syrian visa applicants are generally required to provide proof of purpose for the visit in accordance with the category of the application, which can include e.g. tickets for further travel, confirmation of an appointment with a foreign embassy or a medical professional, hotel booking and/or up to USD 1000 in cash. Passports or other valid IDs are required for all visa categories except that of special relations to the country, which requires a Lebanese national taking responsibility for the Syrian visitor.
Advisor to the Minister of the Interior, Khalil Jebara, told AFP that Lebanon will continue to provide humanitarian exceptions despite the restrictions. UNHCR spokesman for Lebanon, Ron Redmond, expressed his concern however that no formal exceptions have been provided, and no framework for such exceptions introduced. BBC reported that the Syrian-Lebanese border areas were “almost empty” the day after the restrictions took effect.
Last year Lebanon introduced a number of measures to limit the flow of Syrians to the country, which had in October 2014 resulted in 88% decrease in the registration of refugees compared to the 2013 monthly average.
UNHCR and NGOs have repeatedly implored the international community to provide adequate assistance to Syria’s neighbouring countries, which are hosting the overwhelming majority of Syria’s refugees.
Over 1.1 million Syrian refugees are registered in Lebanon, which previously had only four million inhabitants. The Lebanese authorities estimate the actual number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to be approximately 1.6 million.
For further information:
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, NRC & IRC: Increasing border restrictions preventing civilians from fleeing Syria, 11 November 2014
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, UNHCR: Registration of Syrian refugees drops in Lebanon due to restrictions on border-crossings, 7 November 2014
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, HRW: Palestinians fleeing Syria arbitrarily denied entry and deported from Lebanon, 9 May 2014
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 9 January 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.