Over 600,000 Syrians return home, mainly to Aleppo: UN
GENEVA: More than 600,000 displaced Syrians have returned to their homes since the beginning of the year, with most of them heading to Aleppo, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Between January and the end of July, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned to their homes, many of them citing an improved economic and security situation in the areas they had fled from, the IOM said in a statement. A total of 84 percent of those who have returned had taken refuge elsewhere within the war-ravaged country, while the remaining 16 percent returned from neighboring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. More than a quarter of returnees said they did so to protect their assets and properties, while nearly the same number referred to the improved economic situation in their place of origin, and 11 percent cited the improved security situation there. Fourteen percent pointed to the worsening economic situation in their place of refuge, the IOM said. But while most of the returns had been spontaneous, it warned they were “not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable,” it said. Aleppo governorate, the scene of the harsh- est battles of Syria’s bloody six-year war, had received 67 percent of all returnees so far this year, the IOM said. And within the governorate, Aleppo city, which was recaptured by the Syrian army last December after a suffocating five-month siege, has received most returnees, it said. Many of those returning meanwhile must struggle to get bare necessities, with only 41 percent having access to clean water and 39 percent with access to health services. This “is dangerously low as the country’s infrastructure has been extremely damaged by the conflict,” the IOM said. And even as returns from within Syria especially appear to be on the rise, the agency warned that the war-torn country is still seeing high rates of fresh displacement. “From January to July 2017, an estimated 808,661 people were displaced, many for the second or third time, and over 6 million in total currently remain displaced within the country,” it said. Separately, UN agencies have expressed “deep concern” for the safety and security of nearly 50,000 Syrians stranded in the desert near their war-wracked country’s southern border with Jordan. A statement issued on Sunday in Amman said an estimated 4,000 people at Hadalat and 45,000 mostly women and children at Rukban were stuck on the frontier. A suicide bombing claimed by Daesh in June last year killed seven Jordanian soldiers in noman’s land near the Rukban border er crossing.crossing Soon afterward, the army declared Jordan’s desert regions that stretch northeast to Syria and east to Iraq “closed military zones.” Jordan is part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh. “Airstrikes have been reported in the area in the last few days, causing serious distress and panic among the population fearing for their lives with the heightened risk of escalated hostilities,” Sunday’s statement said. It said that although no casualties have yet been reported among the stranded Syrians, “the area is increasingly unsafe,” prompting some people to leave. Thi This exposed dh them to “f “furtherh d danger andd deprivation in an inhospitable desert location, unsure of where to go in search of safety.” The UN said the most vulnerable, mostly women and children, were unable to return home because of the war in Syria. Jordan shares a desert border of more than 370 km with Syria. The UN refugee agency says it has registered more than 650,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan since the conflict began. Amman says it is hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees.