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20,000 Syrians have returned home since border reopening — UNHCR

With more than 650,000 registered Syrians remaining, agency calls for funding

By Elizabeth Turnbull - Jul 05,2019 - Last updated at Jul 05,2019

The Jaber/Nasib border crossing shortly after it was reopened last year. The UNHCR on Thursday said 14,000 Syrians have returned home this year, but that conditions in the country are not ideal for return (JT file photo)

AMMAN — Since the Jaber/Nassib border crossing reopened in mid-October of last year, some 20,000 Syrian refugees have returned to Syria, with the majority of those refugees, around 14,000, returning in 2019, according to UNHCR Jordan spokesperson Lily Carlisle. 

While many Syrian refugees in Jordan prefer not to return to Syria due to the risk of conscription for Syrian men, in addition to a lack of opportunities and services, those who have chosen to return have done so largely for family reasons, or simply for the purpose of going home, Carlisle said.

"We support their voluntary right to return, but don't facilitate return at this stage," Carlisle told The Jordan Times. “It is up to them if they want to go back.”

This is largely due to the fact that conditions in Syria are not ideal for such a return, Carlisle said. 

For refugees wishing to return, their biggest obstacle is obtaining documentation. Often, Syrian refugees do not have the correct documents to return to Syria, and because such documents are expensive, they are often unable to acquire them, according to the spokesperson.

“The UNHCR is advocating that the cost of documentation be reduced, so people who want to return can do so,” Carlisle said. 

As of early last month, there were still 664,543 active registered Syrians remaining in Jordan, according to UNHCR statistics.

“Funding is incredibly important even though the question of return is coming up,” Carlisle said, adding that 80 per cent of refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line and that the UNHCR is only 20 per cent funded for its Jordan operations.

UN Resident Coordinator Anders Pederson, made similar comments in a statement sent to The Jordan Times. “We thank Jordan for its hospitality and call on the international community to continue their support to Jordan, which is critically important to continue hosting more than 650,000 Syrian refugees.” 

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