Assyrians begin to enter Lebanon

  • Written by:

Mark Yapching
Photo: Reuters/Hassan Abdallah
A Lebanese soldier flashes the peace sign while riding a tank. Lebanon has recently opened its doors to Assyrian Christian refugees from Syria.
Assyrian Christians fleeing the Islamic State’s terror in Syria have begun to enter Lebanon.

The state-run publication National News Agency reported on Tuesday that 17 Assyrians had already entered the country from Syria on Monday night. However, the NNA did not specify whether these Assyrian Christians were refugees from embattled Hassakeh or those coming to Lebanon for transition into another country.

The Islamic State last week launched terror attacks in villages inhabited by Christian minorities in Syria, including Assyrian Christians. This resulted in the seizing of more than 10 villages and the kidnapping of more than 200 Assyrian Christians.

As of Sunday, 29 of the kidnapped Assyrians had been released, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights while the rest await trial at an Islamic State sharia court.

Gen. Nabil Hannoun of the Lebanese Army told the Daily Star that the Lebanese government had not blocked any Assyrian Christian family from entering the border between Syria and Iraq.

It was earlier reported by the Daily Star that 23 Assyrian Christians were still waiting for permission to enter Lebanon through Masnaa. The newspaper cited its sources within the government security officials. However, Hannoun said the delay was due to normal procedures in processing refugees.

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

The Lebanese government had announced on Monday that it was giving Assyrian Christians special permission to enter the country. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk recognised the plight of the Assyrians and ruled that they are exempt from Lebanon’s refugee policy given their exceptional humanitarian situation.

Machnouk had instituted a new policy in January that limited refugee entry from Syria. According to the Human Rights Watch’s Lama Fakih said in an interview with NPR that refugees could only enter “if they’re students, if they’re coming for tourism, for work, if they own property in the country, if they’re coming for medical treatment or if they’re transiting.”