HRW hails residency waiver for Syria refugees in Lebanon

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has hailed a move by Lebanon's government to lift a $200 residency fee for Syrian nationals, but said concerns remain about some of the most vulnerable refugees, AFP reported Wednesday (February 15th).

Lebanon is home to just over a million refugees from neighbouring Syria.

Syrians had to pay a yearly fee of $200 to live in Lebanon legally, even if they were registered as refugees and living in tents.

Lebanon's General Security announced last week that "Syrian refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) before 2015 can now obtain a six-month residency permit for free".

"A decision to lift a hefty fee that has prevented many Syrians from maintaining legal status in Lebanon is a positive step," HRW said Tuesday.

But the new policy does not apply to Palestinian refugees from Syria, and excludes registered refugees who renewed their residency through a Lebanese sponsor, as well as those who never registered with UNHCR.

At the request of the Lebanese government, UNHCR stopped registering new Syrian refugees in Lebanon in May 2015.

An estimated 500,000 Syrians in Lebanon are not registered with UNHCR, according to government estimates cited by HRW.

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