UNHCR statement on the return of displaced Syrians
As the dire socio-economic impact of COVID-19 worsens conditions for displaced Syrians, both inside Syria and in hosting countries, UNHCR calls for support for the displaced and their choices.
Over the past 10 years, more than 13 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes and communities, and more than 5.6 million of them are now refugees hosted in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. More than 6.7 million remain displaced inside Syria.
For the vast majority of Syrians, returning home – voluntarily, and in safety and dignity – remains a deep and longed-for aspiration. It is also their fundamental right. UNHCR therefore welcomes all efforts to build an environment that enables refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) to exercise their right to return.
As discussions on the return of displaced Syrians pick up, it’s important to ensure international principles guide any efforts to support the return of those displaced.
Inside Syria, UNHCR and partners have stepped up their support to communities receiving returnees. The approach has been driven by humanitarian need, rather than status, and includes concrete and practical intervensions in areas such as shelter, legal aid and civil documentation, distribution of relief items, livelihoods and repairs to schools, health facilities and other civilian infrastructure. It is crucial to increase support not only to returnees but also to those who remained, based on need, as a means of fostering community cohesion and stability.
UNHCR firmly believes that when it comes to finding durable solutions, we must listen to refugees and IDPs and be guided by their choices. All stakeholders must work to collectively address the barriers to return as expressed by refugees themselves, if we are to increase the likelihood that this becomes a realistic, safe and sustainable solution for a larger number of people. UNHCR will continue to work to address the considerations affecting refugee decision-making, in line with international standards and the principles of voluntariness, safety and dignity. This should be based on cooperation between host countries, the Government of Syria and the United Nations.
UNHCR continues to maintain a comprehensive approach to solutions as elaborated in its Comprehensive Protection and Solutions Strategy of 2018. Maintaining and enhancing support to host governments and communities to help guarantee continued protection and stay to refugees as well as local opportunities remains critical, as does expanding access to resettlement and complementary pathways.