Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said yesterday that more than 320,000 Syrian refugees have returned to their hometowns that were liberated from terrorist elements by Turkish military operations and restoration efforts.
"The number of Syrian refugees who have returned to their homeland has reached 321,093 as daily life started to return to normal," Soylu said in Ankara at a coordination meeting of Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
The return of Syrian refugees has been made possible recently thanks to Turkey's two operations: Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch. Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 to clear provinces west of the Euphrates, such as al-Ban and Jarablus, from Daesh and the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG). Operation Olive Branch, however, was launched in 2018 toward 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.
The interior minister indicated that humanitarian aid efforts continue in 368 centers in northwestern Afrin and Idlib, and in 285 centers in the areas cleared through Operation Euphrates Shield.
Following the operations, Turkey has also been involved in efforts to rebuild the towns' infrastructure as well as health and educational institutions. Schools are being renovated, and a hospital is being built. The activities boosted the number of Syrians returning to their homeland from neighbor countries.
There are currently nearly 4 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. The refugee flow to Turkey started at the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011. So far, the country has spent more than $35 billion for the needs of refugees living in tent camps as well as those living outside the camps on their own.Soylu also indicated that Turkey's capability in disaster management significantly increased over the last few years, saying, "Turkey has the second-biggest earthquake observation network in Europe through the AFAD." Established in 2009, the national disaster management agency, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), is the main actor in building a resilient country and responding to disasters.
Over the past nine years, the AFAD successfully coordinated Turkey's response to a number of devastating earthquakes and floods, and helped survivors get their lives back on track. At the international level, the AFAD completed successful missions to provide humanitarian assistance to over 50 countries around the globe. The agency is also a major actor in providing camps for refugees. Thanks to its efforts, many people enjoy regular access to housing, health care, education and psychological support.