A Syrian exodus: Some 30,000 refugees return home after Turkey’s earthquake

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ANKARA — Turkish authorities estimated this week that greater than 30,000 Syrian refugees have returned to their home nation following the 2 devastating earthquakes that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, however the UN’s refugee company advised Al-Monitor that their proper to return ought to stay unhindered below authorized safety standing.

Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar mentioned Thursday that the temblors have unleashed a Syrian exodus from Turkey. “Syrian nationals are returning to their country. The number was initially at 10,000. We’ve now learned that the number has reached 30,000 and it keeps increasing,” Akar mentioned. 

Selin Unal, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), stopped in need of confirming the quantity to Al-Monitor, citing the company’s absence on the border crossings between Turkey and Syria, however mentioned that some Syrians had been merely visiting their homeland and intend to return.

Unal advised Al-Monitor, “Some of the Syrians living in [Turkey] also lost their families, friends, neighbors, and beloved ones inside Syria and might be willing to check on family and to attend burials and funerals.” 

Under a particular allow granted by Ankara this week, Syrians residing in Turkey’s catastrophe zone are allowed to go to Syria for as much as six months. 

“Therefore, they can return to Syria temporarily,” Unal added. 

Home to the most important refugee inhabitants on this planet, Turkey granted some 3.5 million Syrians non permanent safety standing, which supplies them residency and work permits in addition to entry to social companies.

“Many say they crossed into northwest Syria with the intention of a temporary visit and to plan to return [to Turkey] in the next few weeks,” mentioned Unal. 

The 11 Turkish provinces affected by the quakes had been home to some 2 million Syrians, based on the official figures, along with greater than 45,000 at seven non permanent lodging facilities throughout the area. Those facilities have additionally been opened to each Turkish and Syrian earthquake survivors, based on Unal.

The spokesperson mentioned the company didn’t have an actual variety of Syrian refugees impacted by the earthquakes, “but we fear the number might be significant, given the epicenter of the quake was close to areas with high concentrations of refugees.”   

The devastating quakes on Feb. 6 have fueled the already high-running anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey, after nationalist opposition chief Umit Ozdag claimed that Syrians went on looting sprees throughout the catastrophe zone. Reports of an alleged new refugee inflow from Syria to Turkey following the quakes have additional fanned the sentiment. Akar and different officers firmly denied these allegations.

According to UNHCR, these sentiments did not hamper the quake response on the bottom. “While we are witnessing the disasters’ effect on the lives of families, be they Turkish or Syrian, we also witness their collective response,” mentioned Unal. “So, it’s not that there’s a difference between refugees and Turkish citizens. They are living, affected and responding in the same way.” 

The twin earthquakes have killed greater than 50,000 folks and broken or destroyed 90,000 buildings in Turkey, based on official figures. More than one million had been displaced, and a few haven’t even discovered a tent as refuge from freezing temperatures. 

Urging the worldwide group to step up the aid efforts, Unal mentioned, “More help is on the way, but much more, much more is needed.”