Lebanese state deports 353 "illegal" Iraqi refugees (stay posted for Arabic translations and constant updates)
Beirut, 15 September 2004 -- Following several days of announcements in a Lebanese daily newspaper and on the official Lebanese TV station, the Lebanese General Security forces, in cooperation with the Iraqi government and the UNHCR, today started deporting 353 Iraqi refugees back to Iraq in what they described as a "voluntary repatriation".
We arrived at the scene at 8am. On arrival, we found that many Iraqis had already assembled at the announced gathering spot, a schoolyard owned by the Mabarrat Humanitarian Organization, affiliated with the Hezbollah political party. In the schoolyard, they were under the "protection" of the General Security forces. The refugees were sitting or standing in groups with their friends; some surrounded by their belongings in cardboard boxes, bags and suitcases, some with nothing at all. Refugees were still arriving as the General Security began organizing their departure in the dozen waiting buses. The buses had Iraqi license plates and the drivers were Iraqi. Practically everyone we saw were men, with only one or two women and one young girl.