Refugees forced to return
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees may be pressured to return to their war-ravaged homeland this year, despite continuing violence, leading aid agencies said on Monday. They said misleading rhetoric in refugee-hosting countries was creating the false impression that the country was safe for people to return to, even though it remained highly dangerous. As Thompson Reuters Foundation writes in the article Syrian refugees risk being driven home despite violence - aid groups, with the conflict now approaching its eighth year, more than 6 million people are uprooted within Syria and more than 5 million are refugees in neighbouring countries - mostly in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan - and also throughout Europe.
Tensions have simmered both in the region and Europe as host nations struggle to cope with the social and financial burden of the refugee crisis, with many of the arrivals coming from Syria. The aid agencies said deteriorating conditions in these countries and limited options for Syrians to resettle elsewhere could drive many to return home despite the dangers. "The majority of Syrian refugees and internally displaced live under terrible conditions and want to return home," said Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). "(But) currently, even in certain so-called de-escalation areas, we've seen bloodshed, targeting of hospitals and schools, and death," he said in a statement. About 66,000 refugees returned to Syria in 2017, the report said.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said last week that Lebanon would not force refugees to return to Syria, but called for more international help in dealing with the crisis.
More than a million Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon since the war broke out in 2011 and now account for about a quarter of the country's population of 6 million.
The aid agencies, which also included Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, Danish Refugee Council and International Rescue Committee, also said that Syria's shattered infrastructure could not support an influx of returnees. Half of the country's health facilities and a third of its schools are out of action amid the conflict, the groups said.