Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 July 2020

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

Before donors' conference in Brussels for Syria, aid organisations and charities urge action to help country’s refugees

In this June 2017 file photo, Syrian refugee children play outside their family tents at a refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. AP
In this June 2017 file photo, Syrian refugee children play outside their family tents at a refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. AP

Syrians displaced by their country’s civil war were unlikely to go home or start new lives abroad in the near future, 50 Syrian and international charities say.

In a report released before a donors' conference in Brussels on the future of Syria, the charities tell of the scarcity of options available to Syria’s 12 million refugees and internally displaced people.

The charities include which include Oxfam, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“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 people displaced in Syria, revealed a “clear discrepancy” between people’s hopes and what was available to them.

Equal numbers of refugees in those nations wanted either to go home or travel farther abroad.

Only one quarter said they would try to remain in the same place for the long term, the report said.

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

Those internally replaced overwhelmingly wanted to return home when certain conditions were met.

“We will never return to Syria," a female refugee said in Jordan. "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."

Faced with a lack of options, the charities have called for improvements to the areas in which refugees could return.

They say the primary responsibility for this lies with the Syrian state.

Co-ordinated action is also necessary in political, humanitarian, human-rights, development and peace-building spheres to support people and influence change, they say.

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

“It is impossible for us to return," said a man displaced in north-west Syria.

"A few weeks ago, one of the villagers went very close to our village just to remember the place and take some photos, but she was hit by a sniper and killed immediately."

Women and children in particular face 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," said a Syrian woman in Jordan.

"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."

The UN 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.

As NGOs urge the Brussels donors’ conference, which last year raised €6.2 billion (Dh25.62bn, $6.97bn), to rise to the challenge, charities and aid organisations are 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 Security Council to ensure this vital lifeline is extended to all Syrians so they can do their part to defeat the global pandemic," said the letter signed by 20 charity leaders, including International Rescue Committee president David Miliband.

"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."

Updated: June 25, 2020 03:34 AM

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