BEIRUT: Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi threatened Monday to take reciprocal action if Stockholm follows through on its decision to deport over 75 Lebanese families currently residing in the Sweden.
“If the deportation of these Lebanese families is unjustified from a legal and security perspective, then the Labor Ministry will take similar measures against Swedes residing in Lebanon, regardless of their profession or situation,” Azzi said.
Last week, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil warned his Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallstrom, of the “negative impact on both nations if these deportations were to occur,” noting that Sweden, just like the rest of the international community, must assist Lebanon and other nations with the staggering number of Syrian refugees.
Over 1.5 million Syrians currently reside in Lebanon including around 1.1 million registered as refugees with UNHCR.
“The international humanitarian pact calls on all countries to work with host nations that are going through severe humanitarian crises,” Bassil told reporters.
Responding to Bassil’s claims, Sweden’s Charge d’affaires Peter Semneby had flatly rejected allegations of mass deportations, stressing that the case of every asylum seeker is considered on an individual basis by the Swedish Migration Agency and if necessary by the judicial system. “Sweden has not deported anyone for the purpose of making room for new Syrian Refugees and will not do so in the future,” Semneby told reporters back in June.
Sweden received more than 160,000 asylum applications last year, by far the biggest number of applications per capita among EU countries. Between 60,000 and 80,000 of them will be rejected, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman, told Swedish media back in January.
According to The Guardian, the Interior Ministry has called on police and migration authorities to prepare for a sharp increase in deportations, and to arrange charter flights to expel refused asylum seekers to their country of origin.
In a defiant statement, Azzi said his ministry is currently collecting the names of Swedes residing and working in Lebanon.
“We will take similar actions against any country that does not respect Lebanese workers abroad unless they pose a legal or security threat,” Azzi added.