Nearly 5,000 Syrian Refugees in Turkey Return to Idlib

Story Highlights

  • Though in small numbers, Syrian refugees return home
  • Syrian feel safe to return homes in de-escalation zone

As the war in some parts of northern Syria shows signs of subsiding, nearly 5,000 Syrian refugees have returned to Idlib since October, including around 1,000 in the first week of November, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Thursday.

The refugee return dovetails with a new approach of Turkey, which aims to bring order and security to certain parts of northern Syria to lay the ground for repopulating towns ravaged by six-year-old war.

The bloody conflict displaced nearly half of Syria’s 23 million population, sends millions of Syrians as refugees to the neighboring countries. Turkey has currently more than 3 million refugees.

Though in small numbers, the refugees began to return to northern Syria after Turkey, Russia and Iran hammered out a working mechanism to establish zones for de-escalation during Astana talks, which orchestrated negotiations between warring rebel groups and the government representatives.

As part of the May deal, Turkey deployed troops, artillery and tanks to establish observation posts for de-escalation mission in and around Idlib. Russia also intends to contribute to the monitoring mission outside the provincial capital.

A report by the Turkish authorities suggests that many Syrian refugees now consider returning their homes in Idlib province, regarding the area as safe enough to live, especially after the Turkish military established observation posts in the de-escalation zone.

Refugees first passed through a security checkpoint in Hatay, a southern Turkish province, and then crossed the border back into Syria.

Turkey has been home to more than 3 million Syrian refugees since the war broke out in the country six years ago. They are part of over 7 million refugees that took shelter around the world, especially in neighboring countries. The flow of refugees to Europe through Turkey forced a migrant deal between Turkey and EU to prevent further entries into EU. Germany has registered 1.1 million refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2015.

Though only a tiny portion of refugees prefer going back to the cities where they were born and made a living, it is far from clear when the war would come to an end.

The multilayered war consumed Syria, dragged in major world powers, turned the country into a global magnet for international jihadists, laid waste to once sprawling and affluent cities, unleashed a new geopolitical jostling for influence and power among regional powers through local proxies in the Syrian war threater. The protracted war eluded a diplomatic and peaceful solution despite years of U.N.-led international efforts and other initiatives.

Most of the truces and local ceasefires were hardly observed while either rebel groups or the regime forces repeatedly violated them.

The peace and resolution proved to be elusive matters due to the complicated nature of the war, the presence of so many actors on the ground and the destruction the war exacted upon cities.

Still, in return of the refugees even in small numbers, there was a glimmer of hope and a will, despite all odds and challenges, to rebuild their lives in the province where they were born.

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