Turkey is planning a new project that would facilitate the voluntary return of 1 million Syrian refugees to their country, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday.
The project will materialize soon with the support of national and international non-governmental organizations, Erdoğan said at the inauguration ceremony of new houses built in Idlib in northern Syria via teleconference.
He said that since Turkey launched its cross-border operations in 2016, around 500,000 Syrians have returned to safe zones in northern Syria.
He underlined that over 57,000 houses for around 50,000 families have so far been built in the Idlib area.
In total, there will be 100,000 houses that will contribute to lessening the suffering of "our Syrian brothers and sisters," Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan stressed that the area where houses are being built will also have a mosque, school, health center, bakery, social facility and playground.
He said the project will be realized in coordination with local and international NGOs as well local 13 different local councils in northern Syria.
Accordingly, we intend to build self-sufficient residential areas which will include economic and social infrastructure for 1 million Syrian refugees, which Turkey currently hosts, he added.
Noting that Turkey has been an active provider of humanitarian aid in different parts of the world, he said that the country does not have any discriminatory attitude.
Recently, Turkey sent over 5,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and 100 truckloads of aid material to Ukraine, Erdoğan added.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to U.N. estimates.
Erdoğan is facing rising public anger over the refugees' presence and is wary of the issue dominating next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.
"We will carry out this project with 13 local assemblies in the region, especially in Azaz, Al Bab, Tal Abyad and Ras-al Ain and it's pretty comprehensive," Erdoğan said.
Under the project, Turkey will also help build a school and a hospital to serve those returning, and help with the infrastructure needed by the local economy, "from agriculture to industry."
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Tuesday visited the Kammouneh camps in Sarmada region, northwestern Syria, for the ceremony.
Speaking to a jubilant crowd waving Turkish flags, Soylu said Turkey would continue to support Syrians and at least 100,000 homes would be ready by the end of 2022 in the region.
Turkey has welcomed nearly five million refugees in total including Syrians and Afghans but their presence has caused tensions with locals, especially as the country suffered an economic crisis last summer.
Civil society associations and aid groups fear refugees will be used as a scapegoat for the country's problems in the 2023 electoral campaign as Erdoğan faces an angry populace.
Several opposition parties regularly call for the return of Syrian refugees to their home country.
Turkish officials in mid-April banned Syrian refugees from temporarily visiting Syria to see their families for the Eid al-Fitr holiday in early May, which marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan.