Online Discussion

FFVT on point: Northern Syria. Syrian Refugees and the Prospects of Return

July 7, 2022

This FFVT on point focusses on northern Syria and the potential return of Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey is hosting around 3-4 million refugees from the neighbouring country, as well as another 400,0000 refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and many other countries. Initially, Syrians were accepted as "guests" and "Muslim brothers and sisters" and granted temporary protection status. In the meantime, resentment is growing among the population and with it signs that for many temporary protection could expire soon. According to recent statements, up to 1 million Syrians could be repatriated in the future, mainly to the Turkish-controlled parts of the Syria. For example, the Turkish army is already in control of Idlib province with its 2.5 million displaced people from other parts of Syria, as well as in a strip of land to the east of it, the partly Kurdish-populated region around Azaz and Kobane. In May, President Erdogan announced another military operation, this would be the fourth, to expand this so-called safe zone and also expel Kurdish groups. In this context, the destroyed infrastructure is also to be renewed and cities rebuilt. The escalation of the social conflict in Turkey, the repatriation of refugees to Syria, problematic according to refugee law, and the intervention of the Turkish army in northern Syria, controversial under international law, result in an volatile situation. In this FFVT on point we talk to ass. Professor Ibrahim Efe from Kilis, Dr Zeynep Mencütek from BICC and Dr. Sinem Adar from CATS/SWP about the situation in Northern Syria and the Turkish repatriation policy.

Time: Thu, 7 July 2022, 12-1:30 pm (CEST)

Place: IMIS, Osnabruck and online via Zoom

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Keynote 1 Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Efe, Kilis University: Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Northern Syria (Azaz Region) and the Prospects of Return

This presentation aims to provide an overview of the recent developments in northern Syria and the prospects of Syrians’ safe and voluntary return to home.  The region’s ecosystem has been unravelled after the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown on its own people, the looting of DAESH and finally the indiscriminate Russian bombings and the disconnection of Aleppo from the countryside. Particular attention will be paid to the Azaz and Al-Bab region, where Turkey ran Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 to establish a so-called “safe zone”. The region is home to around 350.000 IDPs and still faces many challenges, notably security threats and widely destroyed infrastructures. The presentation will address all these problems and the implications regarding return with a particular focus on the views and thoughts of Syrian refugees from Azaz, many currently residing in Kilis.

Keynote 2 Dr. Zeynep Mencutek, BICC: Returning from Turkey to Northern Syria: Policies, Practices and Experiences

In the last years, returning Syrian refugees from Turkey has been routinely politicised and remains a highly politically charged issue in the public domain. The Turkish government encourages ‘voluntary’ repatriation of Syrians to Northern Syria, while opposition parties use populist discourse by promising mass returns if elected.  Meanwhile, national migration agencies and related stakeholders have institutionalised voluntary return programmes for non-Syrians. Also, certain administrative practices intentionally push Syrians and non-Syrians into legal informality and irregularity, followed by pre-removal detention and forced deportation. An intensive return/deportation operations targeting thousands of Afghan ‘irregular migrants’ are on the national news. Against this background, this presentation will focus on the policy, politics, and practices driving Turkey’s evolving national returns governance and discourses. It will also provide initial insights about the return experiences of Syrians, drawing from 25 interviews conducted with Syrian returnees living in Northern Syria and those who re-entered Turkey after their return.

Commentary: Dr. Sinem Adar, CAT/SWP Berlin

Moderation: Dr. Franck Duvell, FFVT/IMIS.

The event will be held in Englisch.

Please note, that keynotes and commentary will be recorded and published at our YouTube channel. The discussion will not be recorded.

By participating you agree to the recording and publication.