Logo Wide

Syria Is Not Safe: Challenges and Misconceptions in the Return of Syrian Refugees to Lattakia

The cessation of battles in some areas doesn't mean they are safe for regime opponents, Sameera al-Masalmah writes in al-Araby al-Jadeed.
Syria Is Not Safe: Challenges and Misconceptions in the Return of Syrian Refugees to Lattakia

The Austrian Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, a representative of the ruling People’s Party, designated Lattakia as the sole “safe zone” for the return of refugees. This prompted eight European Union ministers to call for a “re-evaluation of the situation in Syria” to facilitate the “voluntary” return of Syrian refugees, arguing that the situation has improved significantly, though not necessarily indicating complete political stability.

Some countries mistakenly believe that the cessation of battles in certain areas means the Syrian regime has regained full control and influence. While this may be true for Assad supporters in Lattakia, it doesn’t mean the area is safe for regime opponents. The insecurity for Syrians extends beyond armed conflict to internal issues such as regime practices, security service encroachments, and violations of freedoms and property across all sectarian affiliations, even in Lattakia.

External factors also influence the conflict, such as changes in Turkey’s role and discussions about a settlement with the Syrian regime mediated by Russia. This suggests a temporary stagnation in the conflict, rather than a permanent resolution or normalization of relations. Any temporary calm between opposition factions and regime forces remains fragile and subject to change.

Facilitating Repatriation Process: Preparing 2,500 Syrian Refugees in Lebanon for Return to Syria

The Turkish government’s fluctuating stance on Syrian refugees, using them as leverage in electoral and diplomatic contexts, has set a precedent for other countries and parties, including Lebanese, to use similar tactics. This manipulation aims to pressure Europe and promote normalization with the Assad regime.

The increasing pressure to return Syrian refugees is based on flawed assumptions, such as a potential shift in the American position on the Syrian conflict due to its focus on the Russian war in Ukraine, and the strain on European countries from Ukrainian refugees. This strategy of leveraging refugees for political gains is misguided, as the refugee issue has deep political, security, and social dimensions that need comprehensive solutions.

Politically, the root causes of the Syrian refugee crisis remain unresolved, making voluntary return impossible without the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, a condition reiterated by the Arab Summit in Manama and the Cyprus statement from the eight European countries, and a cornerstone of the U.S. vision for a solution in Syria.

From a security perspective, Syria remains unstable with the presence of non-state militias, foreign armies from Turkey, Iran, Russia, the U.S., and Israel, and ongoing conflicts, making it far from a secure environment for returnees.

Socially, Syria’s economic collapse, widespread poverty, and massive inflation make it impossible for refugees, who have lost everything, to return and rebuild their lives.

In conclusion, the return of Syrian refugees requires a consensus on international guarantees, political normalization, and safety assurances. Until these conditions are met, the idea of a safe and dignified voluntary return remains unrealistic.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

Helpful keywords