In Defense of Christians (IDC), the nation’s leading advocacy organization for Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East, denounces the Syrian government’s “Law No. 10 of 2018” that came into effect this past April. “Law No. 10” alerted Syrian refugees of the risk of loosing property in Syria and signaled that they should remain living abroad and not return home.
Disregarding the property rights and needs of the Syrian refugees, the Syrian government introduced “Law No. 10” in order to reconstruct destroyed war zones according to the government’s own priorities. As a result of the new law, the Syrian Government is able create “redevelopment areas” which would only give refugees 30 days to present all required identification documents necessary to confirm ownership (the Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that 70 percent of refugees lack basic types of identification documents). Although there are alternative procedures in the absence of this documentation, including appeals from relatives and consultations of existing records, the conflict’s instability renders both options as unreliable.
IDC calls on the U.S. administration and International Community to stand with Syrian refugees to ensure that these refugees do not lose property in their homeland. As IDC Executive Director, Philippe Nassif, explains, “The Syrian refugee’ crisis has become one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world today with Syrian refugees constituting 1/3 of world refugees, and it keeps getting more and more complex and dangerous for both the refugees themselves and their host countries.”
Nassif also added, “Many host countries have been highly burdened by the Syrian refugees they host and cannot persist in supporting them. Lebanon, for instance, hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, but it’s a small country that cannot even sustain the needs of its own citizens.”
While “Law No. 10” is a carefully crafted attempt by the Syrian regime to prevent the return of refugees to their home country, it threatens the stability of neighboring countries. Lebanon, a religiously pluralistic democracy of four-million that emerged out of a sectarian civil war and a nation of vital importance for both Christianity in the Middle East and U.S. national security interests, faces the potential danger for destabilization due the influx of the two-million displaced refugees, the majority of whom are Sunni.
“We have alarmed the U.S. administration many times in the past of the need to support the security and stability of Lebanon, a role model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims and a strategic ally in the Levant, and we will continue to do that,” affirmed Nassif.
In addition to Syria’s “Law 10,” the Syrian regime is preparing an onslaught against rebels in Deraa, Southwestern Syria, where fighting has been successfully contained since a “de-escalation” agreement last year brokered by Russia, the United States and Jordan.
“Any offensive by Bashar Al Assad’s army, Hezbollah, or other radical Shia militias in the area would lead to additional refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and potentially Israel, destabilizing U.S. allies already struggling to cope with the current number of displaced people residing in their countries,” stated Nassif.
IDC calls on President Trump and the International Community to protect the Southwestern safe zone in Syria, safeguard Syrian refugees’ property rights and prioritize the stability of refugee host countries under pressure from demographic shifts developed by the large population influx. IDC also calls on the U.S. administration, NATO members, the U.N. and the International Community to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis which would allow for the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country.