Turkiye is reportedly set to provide financial aid for Syrians who voluntarily return to their country, as the Turkish government continues to search for solutions to the presence of millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, a decade on.
According to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Ankara has plans to provide transportation, shelter, and humanitarian aid to any Syrian refugees who voluntarily accept to settle in ‘safe zones’ that Turkiye has cleared of Kurdish militant groups in northern Syria in recent years.
Following the Euphrates Shield, Peace Spring and Olive Branch military operations conducted by Turkiye in north-west and northern Syria since 2016, the Turkish government now claims that the safe zones under its control are sufficiently developed to take in Syrian refugees returning to the country.
Around 52,000 houses have been built in the zone to shelter returnees, the report said, and 50,000 jobs are ready to be taken up by Syrians in industrial zones. Turkey has also established a number of local assemblies and security and judiciary organisations in the areas under its control or the control of its affiliated militias, and 106 health centres, 33 private hospitals, and 8 public hospitals have reportedly been put into service.
Similar strides have been made in education, with the report stating that around 350,000 Syrian children are provided with education in 1,429 schools, 26 of which are newly built and 827 of which were repaired and made operational again.
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Other infrastructure projects such as mosques have also been developed, including the building of around 243 new mosques in the northern safe zone and the repair of 529 mosques, with 129 other mosques currently being developed.
Along with the offer to provide shelter, jobs and aid to refugees who wish to settle in northern Syria, Turkey is also reportedly offering the distribution of agricultural aid for Syrian farmers in the region. As of last month, at least 500,000 refugees were reported to have already voluntarily settled in northern Syria.
Ankara’s drive to settle Syrian refugees in its northern ‘safe zone’ comes after a significant break in the presence of the concept in recent years, following the Turkish government’s numerous attempts to push the viability of the zone onto the wider international community. Since the military confrontations further to the west of Syria in 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the concept has seldom been brought up until now.
Turkiye’s efforts to develop the zone and its other areas in Syria in order to take in Syrian refugees also come at a time when tensions between much of the Turkish population and Syrian refugees in Turkey have increased significantly over the past year.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly assured that the return of refugees will be voluntary and not forced, is under further pressure to look for solutions to the continued presence of 3.7 million Syrian refugees, while opposition parties offer to indefinitely deport all refugees.
Despite Erdogan’s assurances, concerns have been raised over reports that Turkish authorities have forcibly deported over 155,000 Syrian refugees to Syria over the years.
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