A total of 313,213 Syrians were able to return to their homes voluntarily as a result of Turkey's ongoing efforts and previous operations establishing security in the war-torn country.
Speaking at Harmonization Meetings held in Şanlıurfa province on Thursday, the head of the Harmonization and Communications Department of the Directorate General for Migration Management, Aydın Keskin Kadıoğlu, said, "As of today, 313,214 Syrians have voluntarily returned to their homes following Turkey's operations conducted in the region for peace and security."
Underlining that millions had to leave their homes because of the civil war, Kadıoğlu said Turkey attaches importance to the safety of Syrians and added that, "Our security forces created safe areas for those who want to return to their homes by conducting Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch."
Turkey is home to more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees. Ten cities host some 2.8 million refugees, while others are scattered around the country. Since 2011, Turkey has received a constant flow of displaced Syrians fleeing the conflict, and their numbers have expanded from mere thousands to millions. So far, Turkey has spent more than $30.2 billion on their well-being.
Deputy Governor of Şanlıurfa Ali Yılmaz said at the event that the province was hosting nearly 500,000 Syrians. "We see the Syrians as our brothers and guests," he underlined. The conflict in Syria that started in 2011 has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than 5 million to flee, while more than 7 million are internally displaced. Refugees mainly took shelter in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, with Turkey hosting the largest number of refugees. Some have sought to reach Europe via the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, but hundreds died en route to Greece and other countries bordering the seas.
The deputy general director for migration management, Gökçe Ok, highlighted that there are 4.7 million foreigners in Turkey from 192 different countries and added that 3.6 million of them are Syrian.
The return of Syrian refugees to their homes has been possible recently thanks to Turkey's two security operations: Operation Olive Branch and Operation Euphrates Shield. Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 to clear western Euphrates provinces such as al-Ban and Jarablus from Daesh and the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG). Operation Olive Branch, however, was launched in 2018 near northwestern Afrin province, again to clear the region of terrorist elements. Both these operations proved successful and achieved their goals of bringing peace to the region. Following the operations, Turkey continued its activities in the provinces by putting emphasis on reconstruction, infrastructure and the formation of local administrations.