A total of 62,145 briquette houses have been built in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, the Turkish interior minister said on Saturday as Ankara’s efforts for stability and normalization of life in the area are continuing.
"62,145 briquette houses have been completed in Idlib for the honorable, voluntary, safe return of our Syrian brothers," Süleyman Soylu said on Twitter.
Upon the instructions of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Soylu said, his country aims to complete 100,603 briquette houses by the end of 2022, with the support of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) under the coordination of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
Thanks to the briquette houses built in the countryside of Idlib, families no longer have to live in tent camps where they are vulnerable to the elements, especially during the winter months, but also currently during hot weather exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
“With temperatures over 40°C in some places, people in camps are suffering a lot – particularly those in tents,” Mark Cutts, U.N. deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, said on Friday.
“Where there’s enough water, people spray themselves & pour water on the tents to cool them. But many people are facing water shortages as well as extreme heat,” he wrote on Twitter.
Since launching several operations in northern Syria to fight terrorism, Turkey has been supporting every aspect of life in the region, from health to education, security and agriculture. In this respect, efforts to clear bombs and improvised explosive devices were launched and administration duties were given to local councils. The country also rolled up its sleeves to reconstruct hospitals, schools, mosques and roads destroyed by the terrorist groups. Within the scope of ameliorating the region's social infrastructure, people were provided food and clothing by several NGOs while roads and buildings were rebuilt. These efforts paid off as hundreds of displaced Syrians started to return to the liberated areas.
The briquette houses in safe areas provide a secure shelter for Syrians fleeing the oppression of the Bashar Assad regime and its backer Russia.
For years, the Assad regime has ignored the needs and safety of the Syrian people, only eyeing further gains of territory and crushing the opposition. With this aim, the regime has for years bombed vital facilities like schools, hospitals and residential areas, causing the displacement of almost half of the country’s population while adopting policies to make their lives more difficult.
Turkey has been emphasizing the need to facilitate voluntary returns and has criticized the lack of support by Western countries to establish living conditions for Syrians in areas outside the control of the Assad regime and terrorist groups.
Within this scope, Turkey is working with neighboring countries, including Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Turkey has welcomed nearly 5 million refugees in total including Syrians and Afghans, but their presence has led to tensions with locals, especially as the country suffered an economic crisis last summer.
Several opposition parties regularly call for the return of Syrian refugees to their home country.
Responding to the opposition, Erdoğan in May vowed that Turkey will never push Syrian refugees to return to their countries.
"When these brothers of ours want to return on their own initiative, they will return anyway," he said, adding "but we will never hand them over to the enemy at gunpoint."
Those who fled persecution and war in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere and sought protection in our country are guests, Erdoğan said.
If they want to return voluntarily, they can return, otherwise, our doors will remain open to refugees, he added.
"Turkey will not push them into the arms of murderers," Erdoğan said, adding that hosting those who need protection is part of Turkish tradition.