About 800 Syrian refugees return home from Turkey every week, but conditions in the war-torn country are not conducive to the return of more people, said a UNHCR official.
There are 3.7 million Syrians living in Turkey, the largest refugee community in the world, but the government is drawing up plans for their repatriation as public opinion in the country has begun to turn against them.
The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced plans to move about 1 million Syrians to concrete houses to be built in northwestern Turkey. However, this plan did not attract the help of the international community.
For his part, UNHCR Representative in Turkey Philip Leclerc said Monday that conditions in Syria are not conducive to the return of many refugees.
“The level of insecurity in Syria does not allow for mass, voluntary repatriation at this time,” he explained.
Leclerc noted that about 800 Syrians, mostly unmarried, return to various parts of northern Syria each week. But most Syrians want to stay in Turkey because economic conditions there are better than in Syria.
“Naturally, people believe that their future is in Turkey and not in Syria, given the very little progress we have seen,” Leclerc said, noting that political, economic and social conditions in Syria are deteriorating.
In particular, Leclerc stressed the importance of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN working for the export of Ukrainian cereals in order to reverse the climate of food insecurity that has been created worldwide.
Russia’s de facto blockade of Ukrainian cereals has led to a halt in exports from Ukraine, one of the world’s main sources of cereals and vegetable oils, which has raised concerns about shortages and famines.
The UN is trying to reach an agreement to resume exports from Ukraine and exports of food and fertilizers from Russia, with Moscow complaining that they are affected by the sanctions imposed on it for its invasion of Ukraine.
Leclerc explained that rising grain prices are exacerbating food security problems around the world, including in Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.
“It is important that the UN, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey try to consider the possibility of exporting Ukrainian grain, either by sea or by road through Romania,” he said.