Lebanon minister freezes UN refugee staff residency permits

Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister has ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for the staff of the United Nations refugee agency, saying it is not encouraging Syrian refugees to return home.

Gibran Bassil said in a statement from his office Friday that UNHCR is scaring Syrian refugees in Lebanon from returning by asking them about compulsory military service, security conditions and whether they have a place to live.

Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, or about a quarter of the country's population.

Bassil's statement came amid reports that some 3,000 Syrians are getting ready to head back home later this month.

Sentiments against Syrian refugees have been increasing, especially after groups calling for their return home made major gains in last month's parliamentary elections.