Conditions in Syria not suitable for mass voluntary refugee returns - UN

Around 800 Syrian refugees are returning home from Turkey each week, but the conditions in the war-torn country are not suitable for larger numbers of voluntary returns, said Philippe Leclerc, Turkey representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"The level of uncertainty in Syria does not enable a mass voluntary return movement these days," Leclerc told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Turkey hosts around 3.7 million Syrian refugees who fled the civil war there. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is facing re-election by June next year amid a decline in public support, announced in April that he is working on a plan to facilitate the voluntary return of some 1 million Syrian refugees, in a change of tone in his government’s long-held pro-migrant policy. In March, Erdoğan had promised to allow Syrians to stay in the country, saying that Turkey would continue to be a safe harbour for the oppressed.

Leclerc said mostly single Syrians are returning to various parts of northern Syria within the scope of Erdoğan’s plans, but most Syrians are in favour of staying in Turkey, as the political, social and economic conditions in their home country are deteriorating.

"Naturally people believe that their future is in Turkey rather than Syria in view of the very little progress we have seen," he said.


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