DAMASCUS/BEIRUT, Hundreds of Syrian refugees returned to Syria from Lebanon on Monday, in response to the renewed calls by the Syrian government for refugees to return, state news agency SANA reported.
The latest batch of Syrian refugees returned through three border crossings between Syria and Lebanon, in an ongoing Russia-backed process of returning Syrian refugees from Lebanon.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in a recent televised interview that the Syrian refugees abroad are welcome to return and take part in the rebuilding of Syria.
Al-Moallem made the same call during the UN assembly last week.
Meanwhile, Lebanese Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said in capital BEIRUT that Lebanon wants to cooperate with Austria and the European Union in finding formula that would send refugees back to their homeland as soon as possible, Al Jadeed local TV Channel reported.
"The big number of refugees impacts the social and economic fabric of the hosting society while it also weakens the countries from which these refugees have moved," Bassil was quoted as saying during a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl.
Bassil said that refugees should go back to Syria which will turn it into a place for dialogue and co-existence instead of being a hosting place for extremist groups.
The minister also emphasized the need to find solutions that fall in the interest of both Lebanon and Syria.
Meanwhile, Kneissl, expressed her respect for Lebanon for hosting a big number of Syrian refugees in the past few years knowing that Syria was present militarily in Lebanon before the start of its civil war.
Lebanon is hosting 976,000 registered Syrian refugees according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, while the government estimates the true number of Syrian refugees in the country at 1.5 million.
The flow of Syrian refugees to Lebanon has weighed heavily on the country's economy.
A Lebanese official said earlier this month that 270,000 Lebanese people have lost their jobs after 384,000 Syrian refugees poured into the country's employment market.
This prompted Russia to draft a strategy that would secure a safe and gradual return for Syrian refugees to their homeland.
Out of an estimated pre-war 22-million population in Syria in 2016, 13.5 million were identified by the United Nations as in need of humanitarian assistance, with more than 6 million forced into internal displacement, and about 5 million fleeing abroad.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK