In 2018 the Lebanese government started organising monthly buses to take Syrian refugees back to Syria. “The General Directorate of General Security continues to ensure the voluntary
return of hundreds of displaced Syrians from several areas.” “298 Syrian immigrants have left Keserwan
to return to their country.” It is estimated that more than
170,000 Syrian refugees have taken these buses. “The voluntary return of Syrian refugees
to their country continues after their towns and villages were freed
from the grip of terrorist organisations.” “Has the story of return to the homeland
begun after years of suffering?” It is estimated that up to 1.5 million
Syrian refugees remain in Lebanon The Bus: Next Stop Damascus Burj Hammoud – Beirut Hi Ruwaida, where are you dear? Come over, I need you to help block the road. Do you see how random the cables are? Like a spider’s web. It’s a very big project. It’s hard, not easy. I’ve coordinated with the municipality
and they took things seriously and we specified two days a week
to sort out the cables. Ruwaida, come let me introduce you. When I call Ruwaida
whenever there is an activity she comes down to help me
and blocks the roads for me. Ruwaida was a student of mine.
What did you study? Electricity. Electricity, yes I love Madame Hayat very much
and I like helping her. – How did you first hear about her? We were neighbours, but how it started … I was nosey and approached you. Ruwaida is from Syria. I’m very satisfied with her enthusiasm. We plant this belief, to give. Even though she’s not from here she’s working for the area without hesitation. Hayat offers workshops to Syrian refugees.
She tries to bridge the gap between them
and the host community I’ll come with you to the one
who stole your tapes, ok? I’ll make sure he returns what belongs to you. Pass by one afternoon. How are you? I took a painting course and I came first I painted my own house I am very thankful to her
and love her with all my heart. I am from Syria and my name is Rangeen My husband is called Bashir. We are refugees, as they say.
We came here during the war. I’m passing through a crisis and I’m pregnant. My husband left his job two days ago. He left his job but his boss is his legal sponsor. You can’t change your sponsor here. If you go to Syria, we’ve checked, it’s not safe. They say it’s safe but it’s not safe. We’ve got a problem with the papers,
that’s why I wanted to speak with you. Yes. I spoke with him today.
He’ll ask and get back to me. – We are hearing that many people are registering
with the General Security to go back to Syria. The situation … It’s not safe. In Damascus, those who have a house
or relatives there go back. But I don’t have anything. If my husband tries to cross the border he’s still young,
he’d be conscripted straightaway. Life is so unfair. Dbayeh – Beirut Good morning. Is that the resettlement office? Correct, the office of The Lebanese Promise Party. I want to go back to Syria. Hello sir.
How are you? What’s going on? My friend, you can register, no problem.
The buses leave from Burj Hammoud. Every single day, the phone doesn’t stop.
It never stops. Stephan runs the Lebanese Promise Party’s campaign
for the return of Syrian refugees We fill in their applications and make a list Then we send it
to the Lebanese General Security. They send it to the Syrian authorities. The majority of them are approved. More than the majority. Until today, we’ve received no rejections. Hello. I can’t afford to pay anything, sir. There is nothing to pay. Who told you that you need to pay? I just thought that maybe that’s the case. No. It’s all for free.
You don’t pay a penny. Some people are scaring Syrian refugees. We consider these to be lies. We went to Syria. The whole trip was filmed. “To all Syrian refugees in Lebanon who don’t have complete houses
at the moment to return to, The Syrian government is ready
to provide temporary housing for all.” We saw what they’ve done for them in Syria. Even those they call camps aren’t camps.
They’re compounds. They’re very beautiful, very tidy. The kitchen is free for everyone, the schools… “We go study so that we succeed.” Social media has played a major role
in our campaign. Each of our posts receives
10,000 or 15,000 comments. Even the Syrians know that the Lebanese Promise Party is the one taking Syrians out of Lebanon. When they want to leave, they consult us. “The town of Miziara in Zgharta hasn’t
recovered from the impact of the crime yet. The anger was manifested lately by the
residents descending on the streets to ask for the Syrian perpetrator to be punished.” “Government Minister Gebran Bassil refuses to register
the births of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.” “MTV’s website looked into the reasons for the
spread of cancer in Lebanon and made contact with Dr. Fadi Nasr who limited it to two factors the garbage crisis and the increasing infections.” caused by the growing number of Syrian refugees.” “Even if not scientifically,
many have considered it to be racist and started the hashtag #TheCancerOfRacism.” “Lebanon is no longer capable of bearing this load which is putting pressure on it from all sides.” American University of Beirut We are now studying cases
of returnees in different countries. including the case of the Lebanese Civil War to explain the conditions that helped achieve
return and the factors that didn’t aid return. Dr. Nasser started the #AUB4Refugees Twitter campaign.
It aims to dispel mistruths about the refugee crisis. We recently made this one to show the facts to counter wrong or exaggerated numbers
that have been going round. Such as the numbers of births, employment,
crime, places of residence and so on. When you say 10,000 Syrians have been arrested you make it sound as if there are
thousands of criminals out there. However, the rate of serious crimes,
such as murder, committed by Syrians is 0.5 percent of the total of Syrians who were arrested. This street is the entry to the Nabaa neighbourhood. The economic situation here… …here the shops here are mixed Lebanese and Syrians. But there are more Syrians. There are probably five Lebanese shops.
The rest are foreign. I want to see Maria, I hope she’s here. How’s the situation now?
Is your business doing better? Nothing’s changed.
Until now nothing’s nothing. It’s still the same? The same. It’s been like this for almost a year and a half. I’m thinking of closing down the shop. I can’t pay anymore. I’ve been borrowing
money for three months to pay the rent. I will need to borrow money again this month. The country is so unwell. When did you first open? It’s been eight years. It’s a disgusting situation. Everyday, it’s like we’re living in a desert. We need to live, eat and drink.
How can we manage? Is it the same for your neighbours? No, the Syrians are doing better than us. The area is full of Syrians. They buy from each other. Exactly. The country is dead, dead. No one feels with us. The government only cares about
filling their own pockets and building palaces
and things for themselves. While the people have been trodden on
and no one cares about us. I have to pay 200,000 LL ($133 USD)
each month for medication apart from the rent and other things. This is supposed to be a commercial road. But the Lebanese are leaving it.
I don’t know what will happen. If there are only five Lebanese shops left,
they may also close down. What will happen, I don’t know. Lebanese families are also leaving the area. They all have an effect on each other. The houses, work… No one is happy, both the Lebanese
and the Syrians are unhappy. Those who have money … eat everything up. But the poor Syrians and the poor
Lebanese are the ones getting hurt. We’re going to a housing project
which is completely inhabited by Syrians. We’ll distribute flyers to see if there’s anyone
who would like to go to Syria. In regards to Syrian immigration… there are places where
we never see Syrians. Now we see them. I’m not being racist against them. It’s all connected, whether socially or economically. For example, the saleswoman who used to be Lebanese is now Syrian. The carpenter that used to come to your house
used to be Lebanese, now he’s Syrian. I’m only shedding light on the idea that this person is Lebanese and the Syrian can now go back to Syria. Jounieh – Kesserwan We have these three buildings. This building, that one, and this one. Do you get scared? He’s “special forces”. Give Mr “special forces” more flyers then. Here, have some of mine. Sharbel, you take this building. Hello. How are you? All good? You’re sitting in the shade? Yes, shade and fasting go together well. We are from The Lebanese Promise Party. We are working on returning Syrians to Syria. Of course we are speaking about a voluntary return. Whenever you want to go to Syria you have these flyers there’s a phone number on them.
You can call us on WhatsApp. We are here to serve you. Ok? Ok. Ok, see you later. May He give you strength. May you live long. We are small in number. We’re not many. But in the past five months,
we were able to remove more than 2,500 Syrians out of Keserwan. – But there are two million. Correct, there are two million but we have to start somewhere. Today, we are doing the state’s job
but we can’t replace the state. We are trying our best, in practice,
to facilitate their return. We are helping them to return
but the decision is not ours to make. You say there are two million,
that’s true, there are two million. You could also tell me you get them out from the border
but they smuggle themselves back in. But I would give you the same response, we are not the state. Today, 40 refugees are
boarding official buses headed to Damascus. Those who are traveling come closer. Come on. Women and children may board.
The men will carry the baggage. From Beirut, two out of three showed up. From the north, 14 out of 27 showed up. Help this woman and her children. There won’t be other buses until next month. Hello sir, how are you? A bus left recently but you didn’t contact us. Good morning. How are you? Correct, one group has left,
but your batch was divided in two. When your turn comes
we’ll contact you straight away, don’t worry. 54 notifications. They’re now 77. This is WhatsApp Business. There were buses scheduled this weekend
but not ours. The people who registered with us weren’t included. – Could it be that the names you had sent to
General Security didn’t get approved? No, it never happened before. Sometimes names are grouped into two trips and they haven’t received an approval yet. They haven’t been rejected.
There’s a big difference. Hello, how are you? Your name has been registered
and we’re waiting for the next departure. When the departure time arrives
and your name is approved, we’ll contact you. “…this is how the situation appeared to be in
this backstreet of the Sanayeh area of beirut. We got here straight after receiving reports of
arbitrary evictions of displaced families.” “The campaign to close down commercial
shops run by Syrians and foreigners who don’t carry licences is back in the forefront again.” “The issue has become about
the Lebanese migrating abroad…” “Foreign workers are not allowed to roam or be
present on the Faraya highway day or night.” “We gave them electricity.
We gave them land to reside in. We gave them food. We gave them bread
subsidised by the Lebanese government. Nobody should forget!” “Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council decision to demolish random cement houses
of Syrian refugees causes a big controversy.” Hurry up! Syria out!
Hurry up! Syria out! This is how discriminatory and racist practices
begin against groups. A word, then action, which turns into violence. The bus as a metaphor, as an image, perhaps shows people that there is a move
from one place to another. But it doesn’t show the details. Our issue is with the details. Who is returning, where are they returning to? Why do some people receive approval
(to return) and others don’t? And why are some areas still closed
and others being opened? These are questions that don’t have answers. We are trying to soften this issue
and to say let’s calm down and look at the size of this crisis
but solve it in a calm way and not resort to taking to the streets. Because if it goes to the streets
we won’t be able to stop it. Syrian refugees on Stephan’s list
received the approvals to board the buses.