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More Syrian refugees return home voluntarily

UN agency sees rate not significant, advises against move

By Mohammad Ghazal - Nov 28,2017 - Last updated at Nov 28,2017

AMMAN —  The number of Syrian refugees returning voluntarily to Syria from Jordan has been “slightly” rising since a tripartite agreement to back a ceasefire in southwest Syria went into effect early July.

In October, there were some 750 returns from Jordan to Syria, compared with 1,078 voluntary returns in September, 1,203 in August and about 631 in July.

The increase is more evident when the October figure is compared to the first six months of the year when 1,700 refugees voluntarily returned to Syria, Olga Sarrado Mur, associate external relations officer at UNHCR, told The Jordan Times on Monday.

The UNHCR, however, said the numbers were not very significant compared to the overall Syrian refugee population.

“Despite the increase in absolute figures, we are still talking about very small numbers [less than 0.2 per cent of the overall Syrian refugee population in Jordan] as refugee communities are rightfully cautious about the relative calm created by the ceasefire that took effect on July 9, 2017,” Mur said.

Asked on whether the deal reached between Jordan, the US and Russia to create a de-escalation zone that went into effect on July 9 played a role, she said: “Giving the ongoing changes within Syria it would be premature to make correlations between specific political events and movement of refugees at this time.“

“Improvement of security is not all that matters for returns; it is an important element, but there are many other reasons to consider too, like family reunification, which is the main reason mentioned by refugees returning from Jordan to Syria followed by economic pressure,” Mur added.

UNHCR, she stressed, believes that conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria and hence the organisation neither facilitates nor promotes returns. 

“There remain significant risks for civilians inside Syria and UNHCR counsels refugees accordingly to allow for informed decision making,” Mur added.

The total number of Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in Jordan stands, as of November 15, at 655,056 individuals, according to the UN agency.

According to official figures, the overall number of registered and unregistered Syrian refugees in the Kingdom stands at about 1.3 million.

In July, Jordan, the US and Russia agreed that the ceasefire aims at permanently de-escalating the tension in southern Syria, ending acts of hostility, restoring stability and allowing free access of humanitarian aid for this key area in Syria.

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