One week ago, Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, issued a statement at a Geneva peace talk which concerned the flow of refugees throughout Syria. He describes a “notable trend” in IDPs returning home; in fact, 440,000 have returned from January, 2017, to the end of July.
Furthermore, the UN will continue “providing protection services, improving shelter conditions and assist in the rehabilitation of some essential infrastructure and basic essential services” within Syria. In neighboring countries, they will focus on monitoring borders and analyzing refugees’ needs. Unfortunately, the return of Syrians from these nations is not on the agenda. Mahecic states that security issues may prevent a “dignified return,” and most educational institutions, medical facilities, and livelihood opportunities have been destroyed in the early stages of the war. In essence, Syria is not yet fit for supporting its original population.
But, these statements raise questions. Firstly, the UN identified over 13.5 million refugees in 2016, which includes around 6 million IDPs. The 440,000 Syrians that have returned home represent 3.2% of the total refugee population and 7.3% of all IDPs. Can this statistic be considered a “trend”? Is it responsible for the UN to disengage from these nations and their efforts to return Syrians to their home?
The UN’s attempts to create peaceful borders has proven to be inadequate. In Jordan, many families have been forced to pay bribes in order to ensure a safe passage through the border, despite the fact that most refugees struggle financially. At the Lebanese border, sons over the age of 18 are often drafted into Assad’s army. The wall that separates Turkey and Syria (shown above) has become a hotspot for violence, as demonstrated by this video, which displays Turkish soldiers verbally and physically abusing a group of men who were illegally crossing the border. A total of 163 people have been shot at the wall, which includes 15 women and 31 children. These abuses have further clouded the fate of Syrians who are still seeking asylum.
Chabkoun, Malak. "Can refugees return to Syria, as many want them to?" Syria | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, 30 July 2017. Web. 06 Aug. 2017. <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/refugees-return-syria-170730102205222.html>.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "UNHCR seeing significant returns of internally displaced amid Syria's continuing conflict." UNHCR. N.p., 30 July 2017. Web. 06 Aug. 2017. <http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/briefing/2017/6/595612454/unhcr-seeing-significant-returns-internally-displaced-amid-syrias-continuing.html?query=Andrej Mahecic>.
Wheaton, Oliver. "Video shows Turkish soldiers beating and abusing Syrian refugees." Metro. N.p., 06 Aug. 2017. Web. 06 Aug. 2017. <http://metro.co.uk/2017/08/06/video-shows-turkish-soldiers-beating-and-abusing-syrian-refugees-6832576/>.