The Syrian government insists that each Syrian national entering Syria must exchange US$100 for Syrian pounds at the official rate.
The policy was put in place in July, ostensibly to help the government replete its foreign currency reserves amid an unprecedented economic crisis. But in reality, it has only added another obstacle to prevent Syrians who wish to go home from returning.
One man, who has been living in Lebanon with his family, tried to return to Syria after losing his job, but having to pay $100 for each of his relatives was too much. As a day laborer in Lebanon, he barely made $150 a month before the devaluation of the Lebanese currency. He said he could have sold all his furniture and still would not have enough for them all to return. Another man said he had enough money to send his family to Syria, while he remained in Lebanon, moving into a house with other people to save on rent and collect the amount they needed to cross.
Another we spoke to said he was able to pay the fee by borrowing from relatives. Syrians with residency in Lebanon, who used to cross the border regularly, are now faced with a financial barrier that is impossible to overcome. In the period following the implementation of the decision, several Syrians were stranded between the Lebanese and Syrian borders, unable to pay the fee to go home.
This is just that latest policy by the Syrian government to make it difficult for Syrians to return home, along with arbitrary restrictions on access, home demolitions, and laws that allow the government to confiscate lands and homes without due process or adequate compensation.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees everyone the right to return to their country. There’s no price tag attached to that right.
Instead of punishing Syrians who left, the government should address the root causes of the economic crisis and allow Syrians who wish to return back in.