Turkey's border crossings with war-torn Syria are nowadays teeming with huge crowds seeking to cross into that country. The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey who applied online for return to their country for an upcoming Muslim holiday reached to 72,000. Every day, hundreds of people cross into the Syrian side, to the areas liberated from terrorists with the aid of the Turkish army.
From Öncüpınar border crossing alone, 4,500 Syrians left for their homeland for Eid al-Fitr, a holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The holiday will start on June 15. Most people board buses to the towns and cities of Azez, Mare, Soran, Afrin, Jarablus and al-Bab. Jarablus and Afrin were liberated from the terrorist groups Daesh and YPG respectively with operations by Free Syrian Army rebels. Backed by the Turkish army, the rebels managed to take back northern Syrian regions from the two terrorist groups in 2016 and this year.
"I am grateful to Turkey for giving us the opportunity to return home," Ahmad al-Hammam tells Anadolu Agency (AA). Al-Hammam, who fled to Turkey about seven years ago, says refugees have been happy to return to Syria. "Some people criticize Turkey and say what are the Turks doing in Syria [in reference to military operations to help the rebels]? This is what they've done, they helped us to return. It is thanks to [operations] Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch that we are going back now. Thousands of Syrians will be at home for Eid," he said.
Syrians will be allowed to return to Turkey starting from June 26 and the crossings will be closed again on July 6.
Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Turkey has been at the forefront of helping Syrian refugees. It has spent some $30 billion for their care in modern camps and for aiding those living outside the camps. Although it pursues an open-door policy for refugees, the country is also concerned about the increasing burden of caring for the refugees with no end in sight to the conflict. Ankara is among the proponents of the idea of setting up safe zones within Syria both for those internally displaced as well as refugees in other countries.
The Öncüpınar border crossing has seen the return of some 60,000 Syrian refugees since 2015 but returns rose significantly after the Turkish-backed operations. Overall, more than 160,000 Syrian refugees have returned home through the border crossings.