Seven years of civil war in Syria has led to the displacement of millions of people, with many fleeing into neighbouring countries.
Seven years of war in Syria have caused the largest refugee crisis since the end of World War Two. An estimated 5.5 million Syrian refugees have fled into neighbouring countries, or travelled further afield, west into Europe and the Americas or east into Asia. Turkey has taken on the highest number of refugees, totalling 3.5 million, with 1 million registered in Lebanon, although government estimations place the figure much higher at 1.5 – 2 million, and a further 1.2 million in Jordan.
The Carnegie Middle East Centre (CMEC) produced the report “Unheard Voices: What Syrian Refugees Need to Return Home.” The report sought to increase the global awareness of the refugee situation and put forward their requirements in any future political agreement in Syria.
As the Syrian Government increasingly regains territory in the country, there are growing calls from neighbouring countries to initiate the return of many refugees, against the advice of the UN.
However, many people currently feel reluctant to return home, with the CMEC report highlighting the concern of refugees about their safety in Syria and the possibility of arrest by the security forces. Furthermore, some have no property to return to as a result of the widespread destruction in Syria’s cities and countryside.
Despite the social and economic difficulties that are faced by refugees, many feel that they are trapped between their host countries, in which they do not always feel welcome, and their home country which is not yet safe to return to.
A majority of people who travel to Europe to seek refugee status do so using extremely dangerous sea crossings. The Mediterranean Sea crossing, from Libya to Sicily, Italy, is the most dangerous, with 22,500 people dying as a result of drowning during the crossing since 2014. The route across the Aegean Sea, from Turkey to the Greek Islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos, and Samos, is a more direct crossing, but has still led to the deaths of 1,300 people since 2015.
Despite the Syrian Government recapturing a significant portion of the country, the civil war still continues in many areas and the threat of ISIS still prevails in the south east and south west of the country. The absence of safety and security, as well as the slow pace of reconstruction projects in some areas of the country mean it is not yet safe for refugees to return home. Any future political agreement in the country will need to provide Syria’s displaced population with safeguards from further conflict or mistreatment, as well as the provision of a home.