Rights group: Lebanese residency laws put Syrians at risk

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BEIRUT (AP) — Human Rights Watch warned Tuesday that recently tightened Lebanese residency laws are putting Syrian refugees in danger, arguing that the policies "set the stage for a potentially explosive situation."

The regulations, adopted a year ago, have forced refugees to either return to Syria, where they are at risk of persecution, torture or death, or to stay in Lebanon illegally, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Syrians now have two avenues to stay in Lebanon, either through registering with UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, or by finding a Lebanese citizen to sponsor them. But the rights group reported finding prohibitive hurdles to the UNHCR route, pushing Syrians into the murky sponsorship trade.

Of the 40 refugees interviewed for the report, only two have been able to renew their residencies since January 2015.

"These residency regulations are making life impossible for refugees in Lebanon and are pushing them underground," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director.

Last week, Lebanon forcefully repatriated 407 Syrians after they were left stranded at Beirut airport. Amnesty International called the action "an outrageous breach of Lebanon's international obligations."

Lebanon is home to over a million refugees fleeing Syria's civil war.

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