Displaced Syrian families who fled from Deir Ezzor and Al-Raqqa. Photo/EPA
Displaced Syrian families who fled from Deir Ezzor and Al-Raqqa. Photo/EPA

A study has found that some Syrian refugees are returning to their homes despite the ongoing conflict due to difficult conditions that they have met with in bordering nations. However, the returnees have found neither security nor decent living conditions on their return.

On the basis of studies and interviews conducted by humanitarian organizations and research institutes, most Syrian IDPs and refugees want the chance to return home but the situation in the country is still too dangerous due to ongoing conflict and destruction of the cities. Nevertheless, a small number of refugees voluntarily return to Syria every month. 

Though this can seem like a positive development, a study by Durable Solutions Platform (DSP), a research initiative led by NGOs, found that these returns are due to unsafe, precarious living conditions in exile and that they are not a sign that the situation in Syria has improved. 

Losing hope 

''Over the past year, we have spoken to more than 1,000 Syrian refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees as part of our ongoing research. The picture that emerges from these discussions is one of increasing vulnerability, poverty and desperation in displacement,'' Saskia Baas, head of Durable Solutions Platform, wrote in an article published by Refugees Deeply. 

''Refugees face severe challenges in securing decent standards of living in Syria's neighboring countries. Over half of Syrian refugees in the region live below the poverty line.Barriers to accessing health and education services are leaving an alarming 43 percent of refugee children out of school.'' 

Baas stressed that many Syrians feel alienated from the communities hosting them and that discrimination is common. ''The harsh conditions of day-to-day life and the constant feeling of being a burden on host societies makes many refugees lose hope that their situation will improve. As a result, some anticipate that they may be better off returning to Syria,'' she said. 

Discrimination against Syrian refugees

In a recent study, DSP interviewed 400 Syrian returnees on their lives as IDPs, their decision to return and their situation on their return. ''Economic hardship and discrimination in countries of asylum were among the primary reasons for refugees to return: 61 percent of returnees report the lack of secure income as the main reason to return, while 43 percent could no longer cope with the humiliation and discrimination in asylum countries. The latter trend was particularly strong among those returning from Lebanon, where some refugees also indicated feeling increasingly unsafe,'' Baas said. 

''Seventy-one percent of refugees indicated that homesickness was a strong pull factor to return,'' Baas wrote, adding that: ''Importantly, neighboring countries' closed border policies created another motivation to return. Syrians can no longer reunite with their family members by bringing them into relative safety in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan. Return, then, became the only way to keep their family together. Nearly 40 percent of refugee returnees had returned for this purpose.'' 

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