The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a report that estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees could return to their country in 2019.
Amin Awad, UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa said on Tuesday that 5.6 million Syrian refugees remain in neighboring countries, namely Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
Among the refugees are an estimated one million Syrian children born abroad whose foreign birth certificates the Syrian government has agreed to recognize, he said.
“We are forecasting … up to 250,000 Syrians go back in 2019. That figure can go up and down according to the pace with which we are working and removing these obstacles to return,” Awad stressed.
“Now, by and large, the war has ended. We have a few pockets [of hostilities], including Idlib, and there is a negotiated ceasefire and a de-escalation zone.”
Awad pointed out that refugees who intend to go home will hurdle a lot of obstacles including documentation for the refugees and their properties and homes.
The government also needs to clear agricultural and civilian areas of the war torn country to make it a safer place to return to.
“Then there are issues related to conscription, there are issues related to amnesty for those who deserted the army. These are drivers that would basically keep people away, they are obstacles.”
These returning refugees are already struggling financially and Awad appealed for support on their behalf.
“Their living conditions have deteriorated as their existence in exile prolongs. They have been borrowing money, they are indebted and a lot of them are living below the poverty line – 70 to 80 percent of them are living below the poverty line in their host communities or countries,” Awad said.
“We are asking donors to stay the course.”
It is important that the returning refugees will have the foundation to rebuild their lives, community and country. Their fate is crucial to the economic recovery of Syria.