A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria shows Syrian refugees waiting on the Syrian side of the border crossing near Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, south-eastern Turkey, 10 June 2015. EPA/SEDAT SUNA
A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria shows Syrian refugees waiting on the Syrian side of the border crossing near Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, south-eastern Turkey, 10 June 2015. EPA/SEDAT SUNA

UNHCR has launched an appeal for the safe passage of civilians in southern Syria, where fighting continues and about 140,000 people have been displaced.

The UN agency for refugees (UNHCR) has launched an appeal to all parties involved in Syria "to protect and provide safe passage to civilians displaced by the recent fighting in the south of the country". It noted that an "estimated 140,000 people remain displaced across the south-west and need safe passage out of the area, plus immediate humanitarian assistance, protection and shelter". 


The UNHCR statement noted that it had helped tens of thousands of IDPs return to their home cities in areas now under the control of the Syrian regime. 

Thousands of refugees return to Syria 

Despite continuing conflict and more displacement in the first half of 2018, almost 13,000 refugees that had been staying in neighboring countries and another 750,000 IDPs have returned to their homes in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Damascus and other areas in southwestern and northeastern Syria. 

As a result, UNHCR had begun to increase its work in Syria in 2017 to support those returning to the country and to improve its ability to respond to humanitarian and protection needs of IDPs, those that have been repatriated and other sections of the population affected by the conflict. 

Collaboration with Syrian and Russian governments for voluntary returns 

The UN agency noted that it had "taken note of Wednesday's announcement by the Syrian and Russian authorities concerning the setting up of a centre in Syria to help refugees who return home. UNHCR has not yet seen the details of this plan, but we are ready to engage in discussions about these plans with the Government of Syria and the Russian Federation." 

UNHCR said that "refugees always have a right to return.UNHCR stresses that any plan that aims to enable refugees to exercise this right must be aligned with international standards - meaning that returns must be voluntary, they need to take place in safe and dignified conditions, and need to be sustainable." 

"It is critical that returns of refugees and IDPs are not pressured, rushed or premature. Refugees need to be able to make a free and informed choice about their future and basic elements to anchor voluntary returns and make them sustainable must be in place," it continued. The UN agency said it was "prepared to work with both the Syrian and Russian governments towards solutions for Syrian refugees and internally displaced that meet international refugee and human rights standards." 
 

More articles