Aid agencies estimate that more than 440,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned to their homes in Syria during the first six months of this year.
In parallel, UNHCR has monitored over 31,000 Syrian refugees returning from neighbouring countries so far in 2017. Since 2015, some 260,000 refugees have spontaneously returned to Syria, primarily from Turkey into northern Syria.
The main factors influencing decisions for refugees to return self-assisted mostly to Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus and to other governorates are primarily linked to seeking out family members, checking on property, and, in some cases, a real or perceived improvement in security conditions in parts of the country.
“Given the returns witnessed so far this year and in light of a progressively increased number of returns of internally displaced people and, in time, refugees, UNHCR has started scaling up its operational capacity inside Syria,” said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic on Friday.
In order to adequately address the initial needs of IDP returnees, UNHCR – as part of the overall UN response inside Syria – will expand its humanitarian and protection response with a strong emphasis on providing protection services, improving shelter conditions and assist in the rehabilitation of some essential infrastructure and basic essential services, all in close coordination with respective sector lead agencies and partners.
Outside of Syria, UNHCR is strengthening monitoring of border movements and analysis of refugee intentions to be on top of any changes that could lead to a refugee return, while ensuring that refugees’ own voices are centre-stage in any planning around return.
“At this stage and while UNHCR will be investing to help, with other partners to improve conditions in accessible areas inside Syria, refugee returns from host countries can neither be promoted nor facilitated by UNHCR at this stage,” said spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.
Of the US$304 million that UNHCR has appealed for operations to assist IDPs inside Syria in 2017, US$103 million or 33% has been received.
UNHCR will be seeking an additional US$150 million in 2017 to ramp up its delivery inside Syria to support both IDPs, returnees and other vulnerable people, and to help improve conditions in potential return areas.
Photo courtesy: UNHCR
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