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Syrian refugees fear permanent exile over confiscation law

Syrian government pushes legislation that allows seizure of homes left vacant by refugees.

Syrian refugees and rights groups have voiced concern that they could be left in permanent exile because of a proposed law which allows the Syrian government to seize abandoned properties.

The move, labelled "law number 10", would have drastic consequences for the millions of Syrians who have fled and could mean they have no homes to return to if they ever go back to Syria.

According to Lama Fakih of Human Rights Watch, the timeframe given to establish property right also made it impossible for those who have fled to establish their ownership. 

"Many Syrian refugees no longer have valid identity documents. They will not be able to prepare the types of case files that they would need to show that they are property owners within the timeframe that is given under law number 10," she said.

'Discouraging measures'

Syria's government says that the law is needed to regenerate areas depopulated by war but opposition groups suggest an ulterior motive.

They say the law is an attempt to shift the demographic balance in key areas by populating them with supporters of the government.

More than five million people have fled Syria and a further six million have been displaced since the civil war began there in 2011.

Most fled to neighbouring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, which are struggling to integrate such large numbers of arrivals.

Politicians in countries hosting Syrian refugees have also expressed concern that they would struggle to absorb large numbers of refugees for the long term.

Lebanese MP Alain Aoud said the trend was "worrying".

 "We need things that encourage the displaced or the refugees to go back to their country, not measures to discourage them."

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