Talks on Lebanese refugees in Germany
21 January 2004
BEIRUT – German Interior Minister, Otto Schily made a surprise visit to Lebanon for talks this week that focused on security and the issue of Lebanese refugees in Germany.
Amid very heavy security measures and complete secrecy Schily arrived at the Lebanese Interior Ministry for a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart Elias Murr.
“We have discussed various security cooperations and stressed the need to stop terrorism, money laundering and other issues related to security,” Schily told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.
“We also discussed Lebanese refugees in Germany and we will sign an agreement soon to settle their issues,” Schily said.
Murr told dpa, that “Lebanon is against illegal immigration to any country. We will study each case, if we see some of the refugees have no reason to stay then we will look into their files.”
Lebanon and Germany reached an initial agreement two months ago for settling the status of 10,000 Lebanese citizens residing in Germany since the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon.
The German government wanted to extradite these refugees after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, arguing that their original reason for seeking shelter in Germany was no longer valid since Israel’s pull-out.
Official talks took place in Berlin last November between a Lebanese delegation, headed by the director general of Lebanon’s general security, Jamil Seyyed, and a German team led by the director general of the interior ministry.
The German side presented a detailed report containing accurate figures about the number of Lebanese residing in Germany, saying out of the 50,000 Lebanese refugees, 10,000 did not possess legal documents or residence permits.
It also noted that Berlin had signed agreements with 27 countries around the world to extradite their nationals with similar cases to those of the Lebanese residents.
“The German officials appeared to be firm in that regard, asking the Lebanese side to take the necessary measures to arrange the repatriation of illegal Lebanese residents in Germany,” Lebanese Interior Ministry sources said
The Lebanese and the German side had reached an initial agreement not to extradite Lebanese immigrants without the approval of the Lebanese government.
According to the sources the extradition requests should also be submitted on an individual basis and not en masse and the Lebanese government would answer the requests within a period of two months.
It was also agreed that the German authorities would prepare a list of Lebanese who have violated the country’s laws other than that of entering Germany illegally.
Scores of Lebanese citizens have immigrated illegally to European countries to flee the civil war and Israel’s 22-year occupation of south Lebanon.
Lebanon was not listed on Schily’s Middle East tour which kicked off in Jordan.
Subject: German news