Thousands of Refugees to Return to Syria Under New Turkey-U.N. Plan

Undocumented Syrian refugees are worried they will be targeted after Turkish media reported on U.N. project earlier this month

The United Nations has announced a plan to ensure the return of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees living in Turkey to their country due to the safety provided in the Euphrates Shield areas.

The announcement was a source of concern for Syrian refugees residing inside their northern neighbor, especially those who have not yet obtained a temporary protection card, who may be the first targeted by this decision.

Details of the project

The Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policies, in cooperation with the UNCHR, launched a project aimed at seeing the return of 100,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

The Hurriyet Turkish newspaper, which reported the news, said that Turkish forces involved in the Euphrates Shield operation had been able to expel the Islamic State (ISIS) from thousands of square kilometers of Syrian territory, which has contributed to the the return of 70,000 Syrian refugees.

According to the newspaper, the project aims to create conditions suitable for the return of people to the northern city of Al-Bab, where it is planned that shops and bakeries will be opened alongside schools and hospitals, and access to safe drinking water will be ensured.

Turkish statistics say that there are no fewer than 3.5 million Syrian refugees who have reached Turkey after fleeing the events in Syria. The Syrians most concerned about the new decisions are those who entered Turkey illegally and do not hold a temporary protection card. The card is a safeguard against the return of refugees to Syria against their will.

Continuing worry

Refugees who are aware of the development have been plagued by continuing worry about the measures undertaken by Ankara and the U.N., especially given that most of those who entered Turkey were searching for safety and have begun to build a new life.

Abou Ahmad, a Syrian refugee living in a populous district of the southern city of Gaziantep, says: “It’s true that we are safe in Turkey, but we have started to become scared of taking any steps to develop our lives here, since we don’t know at what moment we will be expelled to areas which we are told are safe, but that we don’t believe to be so.”

He adds: “If the living conditions improve in the Euphrates Shield area and all services and infrastructure are provided, and it is completely secured by international forces on the border’s regions, many Syrians will return to this area. But this has not been provided.”

Although many are shocked by the announcement of the project, there are some who do support it and are waiting for the moment to return to settle in areas where there is security and services.

Samer, a young man from the northern Aleppo countryside, says: “I used the Eid vacation and went and visited my family there. It’s a simple life and the situation is better than before, as it has improved to some extent. I believed that I would return to Syria very soon.”

Turkish statistics say that at least 70,000 Syrian refugees entered Syria during Eid and did not return to Turkey.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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