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Lebanon demolishes Syrian refugee homes - aid agencies

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese military units demolished at least 20 refugee homes early on Monday, a group of international aid agencies said, warning that they feared more demolitions would follow and that thousands of people including children could be affected.

The army did not immediately comment on the aid agencies’ statement, but a security source said the military had been carrying out checks to make sure refugee dwellings were sticking to regulations.

Lebanon is toughening its enforcement of rules governing the roughly 1 million Syrian refugees who constitute about a quarter of the tiny country’s population.

The small concrete huts in which many refugees live break rules against building semi-permanent structures in their informal camps, something some Lebanese fear would lead to their lasting settlement in the country.

In April the military ordered refugees to comply with those rules or face forcible demolitions, leading many to replace concrete walls with wood and plastic sheeting, though a large number of shelters were not altered.

“At 4.30 a.m. on July 1, military units moved into several camps in Arsal and demolished at least 20 homes,” said the group of agencies, which include Save the Children, Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“Depriving refugees of their already very basic shelter and leaving them out on the streets is not a solution. The demolitions in Arsal come in the context of deteriorating conditions for Syrian refugees, who in the past months have faced an increasingly coercive environment making their lives even harder,” the statement added.

Some Lebanese politicians have called for mass returns of refugees to Syria after fighting ended in many parts of the country over the past three years.

However, while some refugees have returned, many others appear reluctant to go back, with some citing fears of retribution or of a new upsurge in warfare.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Peter Graff)

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