June 12, 2012
Dozens of Sudanese refugees in Lebanon continued a hunger strike outside the United Nations refugee building in Beirut on Tuesday, despite being arrested by police a day before.
Around 30 refugees are refusing food in protest at the UNHCR’s failure to deal with their cases, with many waiting for years for a decision on whether they can claim asylum.
Lebanon is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and therefore the Sudanese are unable to claim official residency in the country, instead applying for refugee status elsewhere in the world through the UNHCR.
Some of the strikers have been in Lebanon for ten years awaiting resettlement in a third country, forced to work illegally as they have no rights.
All the strikers were arrested on Monday night after the UNHCR’s lawyer called the Lebanese police, Al-Akhbar sources in the police said.
But Dana Sleiman, spokesperson for the UNHCR, on Tuesday denied that they had called the Internal Security Forces (ISF).
“We did not call the ISF…if we had called the ISF we would have had clear reasons why we did that and we are transparent with the media,” she told Al-Akhbar.
The refugees were later released and returned to the UNHCR’s offices in the Jnah district of the capital on Tuesday, despite warnings from the police.
Salka, from the Anti-Racism Movement, said the refugees had decided to continue the protests even if they were threatened by police.
“They are planning to continue until their strike is answered,” she said. “They are saying they are ready to die unless they get answers.”
“If they leave now what are they going to leave to? They are going to go back to what? The situation is really bad and I really hope the UNHCR will listen,” she added.
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