Syrian refugees in Lebanon pressured to vote, says UNHCR

Beirut, May 20 (EFE).- Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been pressured to cast their vote abroad in the upcoming presidential elections, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported Thursday.

“UNHCR has received reports of incidents involving pressure, threats and harassment affecting Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in relation to the Syrian presidential elections,” Lisa Abou Khaled, a UNHCR spokeswoman in Beirut, told Efe.

She said the reported incidents ranged from confiscation of documents to threats of physical harm.

The UN watchdog is monitoring the situation, according to Abou Khaled, in order to ensure that “refugees are free to decide whether or not to vote, without pressure or reprisals.”

The reported intimidations have forced several Syrian refugees to head to the polls at the Syrian Embassy in Beirut, explained Abou Khaled.

The UNHCR official said taking part in the voting process would not lead to losing the refugee status, stressing the humanitarian organization’s work aims at the protection of refugees continuing to live in Lebanon.

Some 1.5 million Syrian refugees reside in Lebanon, many of whom are refugees displaced by the civil war in their homeland.

Syrian citizens abroad can cast their ballots for the one-day vote on Thursday, ahead of the elections due to take place on May 26 in Syria.

The election is expected to confirm Syrian President Bashar Assad’s stay in power.

Buses carrying Syrians to the embassy located in the outskirts of the Lebanese capital were adorned with portraits of Assad.

Angry Lebanese crowds attacked some of the vehicles loaded with Syrians, according to the Syrian News Agency SANA.

Ali Abdulkarim, Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, denounced the incidents and called on the Lebanese authorities to “intervene to stop violence against voters.”


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