Assyrian refugees begin streaming into Lebanon

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The Daily Star
BEIRUT: More than a dozen Assyrian Christians fleeing an onslaught by ISIS in northeastern Syria have entered Lebanon since Monday night, a General Security official told The Daily Star.
Gen. Nabil Hannoun Tuesday also refuted allegations that the fleeing families had been blocked or prevented from crossing into Lebanon.

“There is the regular routine administrative procedures which they have to follow in order to enter Lebanon, but no blocking,” Hannoun said.

He said no Assyrian was stranded on the border Tuesday and that many have been allowed into the country Monday night.

Hannoun did not give a figure for how many Assyrians have crossed into Lebanon, but the state-run National News Agency said Tuesday that 17 entered last night.

Earlier Tuesday, security sources told The Daily Star that 23 Assyrian refugees fleeing the violence in Syria’s province of Hassakeh were waiting at the Masnaa’ crossing on Lebanon’s eastern border, to be given permission to enter the country.

The sources said a Lebanese Assyrian cleric has contacted General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, asking for his assistance in facilitating their entry. Hannoun could not verify those details, but denied that Lebanese authorities were denying entry to Assyrians refugees.

Lebanese officials have generally welcomed calls to allow Assyrians to enter Lebanon from Syria despite a months-old ban on accepting new refugees.

Free Patriotic Movement chief and MP Michel Aoun called on the Lebanese authorities to facilitate the entry of Assyrian Christians in a news conference Tuesday, warning that Christians are being systematically uprooted from the region.

“I implore the world’s conscience to help resolve the conflict which is threatening the existence of Christians,” Aoun said.

“We do not want [Christians] to take refuge in Europe or anywhere else… It is a felony to treat in that way the people who have lived in the Levant (for centuries). Today there is a systematic uprooting of Christians from the Orient,” he added.

Aoun, who made the comments after a meeting with a delegation of Christian Maronite archbishops, said a special committee will be set up to provide assistance to the displaced Assyrian families and facilitate their residence in Lebanon.

He urged the Lebanese administration to facilitate entry and residence paperwork, rather than blocking the fleeing families.

“History witnessed many instances of eradication of Christians (in the Levant) and today the tragedy is recurring through displacement,” Aoun added.

Around 220 Assyrians were abducted from their homes when ISIS militants seized 11 villages in the Hassakeh province in northeastern Syria two weeks ago. Thousands more have fled their homes to avoid capture.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 29 of the kidnapped were released, while others are to be tried by ISIS’ Sharia court.
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