Posted on May 15, 2024

Hezbollah Leader Calls on Lebanon to Flood Europe With Migrants

John Cody, Remix, May 14, 2024

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday urged the Lebanese authorities to “open the sea” to migrant boats to put pressure on Europe. The announcement comes shortly before the EU parliamentary elections on June 9, with immigration perhaps the most important topic of the election.

In a televised address, Hassan Nasrallah called for “a national decision” to “open the sea” for “anyone who wants to leave for Europe, for Cyprus,” which is the EU country closest to Lebanon’s coast.

Many in Lebanon accuse the EU of wanting to keep displaced Syrians in the country, which claims to host nearly 2 million Syrian refugees, including many who are in the country illegally. That represents the highest per capita ratio in the world.

On top of woes sparked by the Syrian refugee influx, Lebanon has been mired in a deep economic crisis since 2019 and has repeatedly urged the international community to repatriate them. The presence of nearly 2 million Syrians has also sparked protests in the country, with the Lebanese fed up with the presence of so many foreigners.

Some Lebanese politicians also hold Syrians responsible for their country’s worsening situation, and pressure is mounting ahead of an annual conference on Syria in Brussels on May 27.

However, in his speech, Nasrallah said he had no intention of “forcing displaced Syrians to board boats” and to push them to leave. In fact, Hezbollah remains aligned with Syria’s leader, Bashar Al-Assad, but notably, the majority of the displaced Syrians belong to Sunni groups, which battled Assad for years.

Meanwhile, the EU has been hard at work keeping Syrians inside Lebanon, especially as the entire continent sours on mass immigration. At the beginning of May, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced in Beirut €1 billion in aid, notably to combat illegal immigration. However, many Lebanese claimed the money amounted to a bribe to keep Syrians inside the country, which features its own costs to the country’s budget.

At present, Syrians “are forbidden (to leave) and therefore turn to smuggling and inflatable boats, and there are drownings at sea because the Lebanese army is applying a political decision aimed at preventing them from emigrating,” said the leader of Lebanon’s powerful Islamist movement Hezbollah on Monday.

Hassan Nasrallah also urged the Lebanese parliament to put pressure on the European Union and Washington to lift sanctions against Syria, which Damascus claims are blocking aid and reconstruction efforts.

Lebanon must tell the West that “we must all coordinate with the Syrian government to send displaced people back to Syria and provide them with aid on the spot,” he added.

These statements come on the eve of the resumption of “voluntary returns” of Syrians from Lebanon, a year and a half after these returns were halted.