Syrian refugees in Lebanon will not be able to return home as long as the Bashar Assad regime rejects taking them back, veteran Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt said Monday.
Jumblatt, president of the Progressive Socialist Party, said the refugees are afraid to go back home out of fear of being tortured by the regime. "It is impossible for the masses [of refugees] to return home while the Syrian regime refuses to receive them," he added.
The regime has accepted less than 20 percent of the refugees who have attempted to return to Syria, said Richard Kouyoumjian, Lebanon's minister of social affairs. Damascus is the decision-maker for the refugees' return, not Lebanon, he said.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. The conflict in Syria has killed more than 500,000 people and forced more than 5 million people to flee, while some 7 million remain internally displaced. Refugees mainly took shelter in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, with Turkey hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees. Some of them have sought to reach Europe via the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, but hundreds have died en route to Greece and other coastal countries.
Turkey remains a safe haven for more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees. The population of Syrians living in Turkey may increase to 5 million in 10 years, a recent report by the state-run Ombudsman Institution indicates, drawing attention to the fact that even though the war may end in Syria, many Syrians in Turkey could decide not to return home.
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