Safe zone in Syria aims to provide conditions for refugees to return home
by Ali Ünal
ANKARAJul 28, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
Jul 28, 2015 12:00 am
After Turkey and the U.S. agreed to establish a safe zone in Syria along the Turkish border to ensure security and stability, Turkish officials have said that the safe zone, which is expected to cover 110-kilometer-long area west of the Euphrates River stretching to the province of Aleppo, is to provide conditions for refugees to return to Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that creating a safe zone in Syria will provide the necessary basis for Syrian refugees' returning to their homeland. "As you can understand, cleansing the region of all threatening elements and establishing a safe zone constitutes the basis of 1.7 million Syrian refugees' return," Erdoğan said just before flying to China for an official visit. Meanwhile, sources in Ankara reported that the necessary steps, which require providing conditions for refugees to return to Syria, were discussed in the last Cabinet meeting last week. Accordingly, after cleaning the proposed safe zone of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and other threats, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) will build refugee camps inside Syria as a first step. Other infrastructure investments such as building roads and permanent accommodations are planned as a next step. The Prime Ministry Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) has already begun preliminary works to build houses and schools and a hospital in order to attract refugees to return to Syria, sources have reported.
Turkey's opening its doors to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees since the outbreak of the civil war has come at a substantial cost to the government, as it has spent nearly $6 billion to carve out a life for the refugees currently in the country. Turkey is home to more than two million refugees, and Turkish officials' have said that the country cannot absorb any more refugees. More recently, EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır said that refugee-related problems may spread to Europe if EU countries do not share the burden. "This issue is not only Syria, Iraq and Turkey's problem. As long as the U.S. and EU countries do not cooperate to eliminate the causes of the refugee problem and fight terrorism, it will spread," Bozkır said in an interview with Daily Sabah.