Turkey to launch housing project for refugees in Idlib de-escalation zone

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 26.09.2019 00:10

Turkey will launch a housing project for refugees in the de-escalation zone in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. A total of 100 houses, planned for the disabled and orphans, will be handed over to new residents after the six-month-long construction process.

Following its proposal to build residences for refugees in the planned 30-40 kilometer deep safe zone, Turkey has been preparing to take the first steps for the initiative in Idlib's de-escalation zone.

Amid ongoing efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Turkey has intensified diplomatic contacts with international actors such as the U.S., Russia and Iran. In addition to these diplomatic efforts, Turkey also conducts humanitarian projects to provide shelter for victims of the civil war. Therefore, a housing project will be built by Turkey in Idlib's rural area.

The initiative is Turkey's first effort to build residences for refugees in safe zones in northern Syria. The project includes 100 houses for the families of disabled and orphans and is a co-initiative of Türkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV) and Pakistan Baitussalam Foundation. If the project is completed on schedule, families in refugee camps will have the opportunity to live in their new houses six months later.

The project is specially designed for the needs of the disabled people and also compatible with the local architecture. There are also efforts to build schools, health facilities, mosques and social facilities to create a fully functioning living space. On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to set up a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians who want to return home. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center. The agreement also envisaged setting up necessary security measures to address Turkey's security concerns, including clearing the zone of the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG), a group the U.S. has sometimes allied with in spite of Turkey's objections.

Turkey has long championed the idea of terrorist-free safe zones in Syria. It has stressed ridding the area of the terrorist YPG, as well as resettling Syrian migrants currently sheltered in Turkey.

The two countries are working together and taking steps to establish the planned safe zone. However, Turkish officials have frequently voiced concerns that U.S. moves are advancing rather slowly on this issue.

Accordingly, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced recently that Turkey was ready to conduct a unilateral offensive in northern Syria if the U.S. once again resorts to stalling tactics while continuing to work with the YPG under the pretext of fighting Daesh.

In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Erdoğan called on U.N. member countries to back Turkey's efforts to ensure security in Idlib, Syria, to avoid another wave of mass migration and massacres and added that the efficient functioning of the Syrian constitutional committee is critical for the political and territorial unity of Syria. Hosting nearly 5 million refugees, Ankara often warns the international community and regional countries that a new offensive in northern Syria could trigger an unbearable refugee wave toward the West.

According to Interior Ministry figures, the number of refugees was 4.2 million in 2017 and has now reached 4.9 million. While 3.6 million Syrians live in Turkey, more than 415,000 Syrians have been born in Turkey since the start of the civil war in 2011. Ankara has spent nearly $40 billion so far, while it has only received about 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) of support from the international community. Turkey has long criticized European countries and the international community for their lack of support on the issue of refugees.

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