What future for Syrian IDPs and refugees?

Syrian refugees in Lebanon Syrian refugees in Lebanon © ANSA med

This article is a brief presentation of the Joint Agency NGO’s report on the uncertain fate of Syrian IDPs and refugees

The latest report published by the Joint Agency at the end of June shows that the biggest concern for Syrian internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees is uncertainty about the future. Both are primarily considering two options: moving abroad or returning to Syria. The latter option is mainly considered by IDPs, who dream of returning to their places of origin, even though they have been destroyed by the ongoing civil war. However, in order for their dream to come true, it is necessary that a political change will take place, thus Syria could become more secure and stable.

Such a future situation seems too unrealistic in the eyes of those Syrians who have lost all hope of coming back home, since repatriation would lead to a worsening of their already inevitably difficult living conditions. Factors hindering return to Syria include fear of being arrested or recruited by the regime; lack of access to family property; gender-based violence; lack of laws to protect and safeguard returnees; lack of basic services and opportunities for survival; high risk of being victims of organised crime and jihadist groups.

Despite the existence of such threats, half a million Syrians - both IDPs and refugees - have already returned to Syria in the last year and another flow of return would probably have been if the border closures imposed by COVID-19 had not been adopted. Their choice was based on the comparison between the hardships experienced during displacement, such as social marginalisation and lack of prospects of integration into the host community, and the situation in the areas of origin, which is considered a «lesser negative option», even if it is characterised by a serious humanitarian crisis.

Once back in Syria, however, the returnees faced a number of difficulties, including the lack of electricity, the inability to meet their needs, lack of access to basic health services and medical care, the high rate of inflation leading to higher prices and cost of living, and the absence of essential infrastructure. Considering the precarious and dramatic situation in Syria, really are those who have returned there safe? Of course, the answer can only be no.

The situation in which Syrian refugees live is no better elsewhere. For example, hunger is on the rise among Syrian refugees in Lebanon: according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) monitoring, between March and April 2020, 78% had difficulty buying food due to lack of money. In addition, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already caused a severe global economic recession, has further reduced the chances of meeting basic needs, not only for refugees, but also for host communities, who are becoming more hostile to welcoming immigrants, preventing them from building a new life. Fortunately, this does not always happen. Some refugees have been able to start over and rebuild their lives outside Syria, as happened in Turkey, where they hope to stay, or in Iraqi Kurdistan. In this regard, a research conducted by the Durable Solution Platform (DSP) in 2019 found that 37% of Syrian refugee families want to integrate locally and become part of the community.

Therefore, for the future of Syrian refugees a central role is played by the host communities, which - according to the Joint Agency - should adopt policies aimed at their integration and respect for their rights, by cooperating with other foreign governments for their potential and future resettlement. For example, building on positive models of economic and social integration of countries such as Canada and Germany, states should set realistic resettlement quotas for the next 5-10 years in order to offer certainty especially to those people who have very little prospect of return because of their personal situation.

The States, which took part in the Brussels Conference from 22 to 30 June, should also fulfil several commitments: to respect the protection thresholds outlined in the UNHCR Global Strategy for Protection Solutions, a milestone of international refugee return policy in Syria and a tool of assessing whether the conditions in the country are conducive to the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees; to activate a dialogue with the so-called "donor States”, which are called upon to adopt a collective approach and to work directly with the competent bodies in Syria in order to negotiate access for refugees and IDPs to humanitarian and assistance interventions; and to develop a reconstruction plan based on the inclusion of the so-called third level of the pyramid in peacebuilding operations, the grassroots, that is the local population. Indeed, the process of reconstruction building must consider them, their needs, their skills and their aspirations, because they are the future of Syria.

 

To read more, please visit:

https://www.nrc.no/globalassets/pdf/reports/into-the-unknown/into-the-unknown_ngo-durable-solutions-report.pdf

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/it/meetings/international-ministerial-meetings/2020/06/30/

https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/it/home/partnerschaften_auftraege/multilaterale-organisationen/uno-organisationen/unhcr.html

https://dsp-syria.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/DSP-CU%20report_0.pdf

https://dsp-syria.org/sites/default/files/2019-01/Far%20From%20Home.pdf

http://www.meri-k.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Durable-Solutions-for-Syrian-Refugees-in-the-Kurdistan-Region-of-Iraq.pdf

https://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/hierarchical_intervention_levels

 

Author: Antonella Palmiotti

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