Many of the 12 million displaced Syrians will not return home, NGOs warn

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Syrians displaced by their county’s bitter civil war were unlikely to return home or start new lives abroad in the near future, a group of 50 Syrian and international NGOs has said.

In a report released before a donor’s conference in Brussels on the future of Syria the NGOs, which include Oxfam, Save The Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council, have described the scarcity of options available to Syria’s 12 million refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).

“The majority of these people have no viable prospect for a durable solution – safe return and reintegration, local integration or resettlement – to end their displacement in the near future,” the report read.

Interviews with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and IDPs inside Syria have revealed what the report characterised as a “clear discrepancy” between people’s hopes for the future in contrast with what was available to them.

Refugees in those host nations wanted to return home or travel further abroad in roughly equal numbers, with only one quarter stating they would look to remain in the same place long-term, the report outlined.

The Zaatari camp in Marfaq, south of the Syrian border, became Jordan’s first official camp for Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country. In the photo: Aya stands with her neighbours in Zaatari camp in Jordan. She is one of 60,000 children in Zaatari camp WFP
The Zaatari camp in Marfaq, south of the Syrian border, became Jordan’s first official camp for Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country. In the photo: Aya stands with her neighbours in Zaatari camp in Jordan. She is one of 60,000 children in Zaatari camp WFP

IDPs overwhelmingly wanted to return home once certain conditions were met.

“We will never return to Syria. This is not an option for us. We will not improve the lives of our children and there we can do nothing for them. Also, it will be insecure. We are waiting to be able to emigrate; it will be wonderful if we can travel. But, in the worst-case scenario, we’ll live here,” a female refugee in Jordan said.

Faced with a lack of options, the NGOs have called for improvements to the areas in which refugees could return. The primary responsibility for this, they have said, lies with the Syrian state. Co-ordinated action is also necessary across political, humanitarian, human-rights, development and peace-building spheres to support people and influence change, they have said.

The Syrians interviewed in the report explained the difficulties they faced when considering going home.

“It is impossible for us to return. A few weeks ago, one of the villagers went very close to our village in order just to remember the place and take some photos, but she was hit by a sniper and killed immediately,” a male IDP in north-west Syria said.

Women and children in particular face particular danger if they return home.

Syrian refugees head northwest through the town of Hazano in Idlib province as the flee renewed fighting Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)
Syrian refugees head northwest through the town of Hazano in Idlib province as the flee renewed fighting Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

“Our parents tell us to come back but they have no gas and are using donkeys, like in old times. We could manage despite this, but two things are impossible to live with: the lack of safety, like the kidnapping of children and women, and the expensive prices for food, gas, and everything we need,” another female refugee in Jordan said.

The United Nations has until July 10 to renew its Syria cross-border resolution, which allows aid to reach four million Syrians living in areas outside the control of the government in Damascus.

At the same time that NGOs urge the Brussels donors’ conference, which last year raised €6.2 billion (Dh25.7bn), to rise to the current challenge, charities and aid organisations are also calling on the UN to reauthorise access to north-east Syria. This will ensure vulnerable populations are able to receive the aid they need as humanitarian agencies struggle to scale up and respond Covid-19.

“We look to the [UN] Security Council to ensure that this vital lifeline is extended to all Syrians so they can do their part to defeat the global pandemic. Covid-19 calls for global solidarity and action to ensure we do not leave the most vulnerable behind. Now is not the time to scale back humanitarian access,” the letter signed by 20 NGO leaders including International Rescue Committee president and chief executive, David Miliband, read.

Updated: June 24, 2020 07:41 PM

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