Lebanon forces Syrian refugees to tear down walls

BEIRUT — Lebanese troops enter refugee settlements in a town near the Syrian border today to make sure that brick and concrete walls have been torn down, Lebanon’s state-run news agency says.

Lebanese authorities have undertaken their most aggressive campaign yet to make Syrian refugees return home, and prevent them from putting down roots. Earlier this year, the military gave refugees until July 1 to remove any wall taller than waist high.

The National News Agency says only four of the 20 settlements that the troops visited in Arsal still had walls. The town is home to 60,000 refugees living in informal camps in the surrounding fields.

Save the Children spokeswoman Joelle Bassoul says up to 3,000 homes are slated to be demolished in Arsal, adding that less than half were demolished by the refugees. She says they have reports the army moved into three camps and demolished some homes. “There are many children and women in these camps and now they are becoming more vulnerable moving from solid structures into tents,” Bassoul says.

Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees per capita in the world — 1 million amid a Lebanese population of nearly 5 million — putting pressure on the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

— AP

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