Nearly half million Syrians returned to safe areas in their homeland: Officials
Fevzi Kızılkoyun - ANKARA
With the Turkish government’s efforts to maintain public order and provide economic and social benefits to local communities in northern Syria, some 500,000 Syrians who had sought temporary protection in Turkey have returned to their homeland.
The Turkish army and allied Syrian local forces have created three safe havens in northwestern Syria through military operations dubbed Euphrates Shield, Peace Spring and Olive Branch since August 2016.
In recent months, Turkey has started providing transport, accommodation and food support to Syrian families that wish to return to Syria.
While half a million Syrians applied to relocate to those areas, some Syrians inside their own country also moved there. Thus, the population in those three areas increased from 1.3 million to more than 2 million.
The Turkish authorities have been conducting interviews and having talks with Syrian communities to speed up the assisted voluntary return program.
As part of councils established in the safe havens protected by Turkish soldiers, more than 12,000 local security guards have been trained and nearly 3,000 consultants have been appointed to town and neighborhood administrations.
An urban security and management system has been established in the cities of Afrin, Ras al-Ayn, Azez, Al-Bab and Tell Abyad. A judiciary communication system is also being tested in those cities and towns.
A new public hospital will be added to the health system, which includes eight public hospitals, 33 private hospitals, 106 health centers, 42 emergency health units, 10 mobile health vehicles and 76 ambulances.
Some 50,000 locals have been employed in the newly-built industrial zones. Farmers have been provided seed and fertilizer supports.
In a bid to revive the local economy and trade, border gates with Turkey have been reopened and modernized.
A total of 51,860 houses have been constructed in the three areas and 44,853 of them have already been occupied by families. Construction works of 63,167 new houses are expected to be completed in the upcoming months.
Around 350,000 children have been enrolled in 1,429 schools. Nearly 50 schools and several vocational training centers will be added to them soon.
Two gymnasiums, five stadiums, 10 youth centers, 14 football pitches and a number of orphanages have been opened.
A total of 243 new mosques have been built, while 526 damaged mosques have been restored and reopened.
According to the latest official data, some 21,600 Syrians have taken shelter at camps in the province of Idlib, which borders Turkey’s southern province of Hatay. At 167 camps within the Olive Branch Operation Zone, more than 72,000 Syrians have been settled. In the Euphrates Shield Operation Zone, more than 276,000 Syrians are staying at 108 camps. The number of Syrians living within enclaves on the border line is estimated at 290,000.