Q&A on Returns to Syria
1. What is UNHCR’s position regarding refugees’ return to Syria?
- UNHCR’s position is that it is refugees’ right to return to their home country at a time of their choosing, if they so decide based on objective information accessible to them.
- Return is an individual decision taken by the refugees themselves. It is not up to UNHCR or anyone else to make the decision to return on behalf of refugees. Refugees are best placed to make that decision, based on their individual situation, that of their family and their homes in Syria.
- UNHCR is currently not organising return movements to Syria but can provide some support to refugees who have themselves taken the decision to return home now.
- UNHCR also continues to work with the Lebanese authorities and partners to ensure that refugees who have not taken a decision to return to Syria can continue to live in Lebanon until they are able to return home in safety and dignity.
2. What can refugees do if they have questions regarding return to Syria?
- Refugees who have questions regarding return to Syria can call UNHCR to make an appointment. A UNHCR staff member will either meet the refugee(s) in person at the nearest UNHCR reception center or talk to them over the phone to answer their questions (for instance regarding exit procedures, important documents to take to Syria, medical issues and vaccinations, the status of refugees’ UNHCR file in Lebanon if they decide to return, etc.) and to discuss their needs.
- UNHCR staff members can also provide refugees with leaflets of UNHCR-supported community and satellite centers in the different governorates in Syria and the available services in these, such as legal aid, food aid and shelter assistance. UNHCR can also provide information about assistance programmes by partner organizations in Syria, like WFP.
3. What can refugees do if they wish to return to Syria but are missing important documents?
- It is very important that refugees have official records of their own and their family’s civil status events that took place in Lebanon (birth, marriage, divorce, death) as well as education documents. Without these documents, there is a risk that these events will not be recognised once refugees return to Syria.
- Obtaining these documents might take time. If refugees are missing documents, they can call UNHCR to make an appointment. UNHCR will provide guidance on how to obtain these documents and will try help accelerate the procedure whenever possible.
4. Why is UNHCR asking refugees about their intentions to return to Syria?
- Over the past several years, UNHCR has been collecting information regarding refugees’ intentions and views regarding their future. It is essential for UNHCR to understand refugees’ intentions to conduct appropriate advocacy and to plan for effective support programmes in Lebanon and in Syria.
- The information collected during these activities is presented anonymously and the participation is on a voluntary basis. It is not compulsory to respond.
- Participation in these intention surveys is not related to humanitarian assistance provided in Lebanon and does not affect refugees’ eligibility to receive assistance and services.
For individual counselling and more detailed advice and support, refugees can call the UNHCR National Call Centre: 01-903014 (Monday to Friday from 8:00 – 17:00)