A new batch of Syrian refugees returned to their country yesterday from Istanbul as Turkey's efforts to resettle them in areas saved from terrorist groups in war-torn Syria continues. A total of 237 Syrians living in Istanbul's Esenyurt district boarded buses that will take them to the Syrian border. From the border, they will travel to their hometowns recently liberated from Daesh and People's Protection Units (YPG) by Free Syrian Army (FSA) backed by the Turkish military.
The trip was courtesy of Esenyurt municipality and some among the passengers shed tears as they bid farewell to a place they called home for at least six years. "I have been in Turkey for the six years. I worked in factories here and it was a good time for us. We are grateful to Turkey for its help," a Syrian refugee who declined to give his name said. Esenyurt Mayor Ali Murat Alatepe said they helped some 4,000 Syrian refugees to return home in one year and people were scared at first, worried about the security situation in Syria, adding that people were more willing nowadays to go back upon hearing about improved security in their hometowns from relatives who had already returned. "Most have a place to stay as their hometowns are not damaged very much," the mayor said, adding that they planned to organize journeys for 25,000 more Syrians next year.
The municipality works in coordination with the Turkish Red Crescent and the state-run Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) that oversees the care of refugees in Turkey to ensure the safe return of refugees.
Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Turkey has been hosting some 3.5 million refugees, the largest Syrian refugee community in the world. The country has spent some $30 billion for the needs of refugees living in tent camps as well as those living outside the camps on their own. As the conflict escalated, Turkey stepped up its advocacy for the establishment of safe zones within Syria, to accommodate both those who took shelter abroad as well as internally displaced Syrians.
Returns increased in the past months after successive operations to end the Daesh terrorists' takeover of al-Bab, Jarablus and the clearing of Afrin of YPG terrorists in Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch in 2016 and earlier this year. respectively. More than 281,000 Syrian refugees have returned home since 2016.