Russia Announces Return of More than 100,00 Refugees to Syria Since January

Over 100,000 Syrian refugees have been returned to Syria since January, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence, Euronews reports. A similar operation to return 850 refugees has begun in southeastern Lebanon, according to Lebanese TV channel Al Mayadeen.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, 101,976 refugees have been returned to Syria since January–232,792 “since the start of [the ministry’s] operation”, and 1,417,385 in total since 2015.

Additionally, 336,500 more places have been prepared around the country for receiving and accommodating refugees, the Russian Ministry of Defence stated. The statement detailed a report of ongoing infrastructure reparations, as well as medical assistance and food supplies.

With the aid of Turkey, Iran, and the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides, Syria has recovered territory previously occupied by rebel groups and oversees ceasefire compliance, allowing, finally, for the return of refugees.

“It is estimated that more than 1.7 million Syrians have expressed a desire to return home from eight countries,” the ministry stated. The largest number of potential returnees come from Lebanon, followed by Turkey, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Denmark, and Brazil.

More than 6.9 million people have left Syria since 2011 when the the Syrian civil war broke out, most of whom are living in 45 countries, the official said.

Last Friday Xinhua quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees may return to their places of permanent residence in the near future. According to preliminary estimates, these refugees include up to 890,000 from Lebanon, up to 300,000 form Turkey, about 150,000 from Jordan, up to 100,000 from Iraq and Egypt each, and up to 200,000 primarily from the EU countries, said Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defense Management Center.

“To date, 336,500 people can already be accommodated in 76 settlements of the country least affected by the war,” Mizintsev said, according to a transcript by the Defense Ministry.

Russia’s newly established refugee center in Syria has started restoring infrastructure and vital facilities in 48 Syrian populated settlements, Major General Alexei Tsygankov said, according to the transcript.

On Monday, the Defense Ministry announced that Russia has established a center for the reception, distribution and accommodation of refugees in Syria. The center will monitor the return of temporarily displaced persons and Syrian refugees from foreign countries to their homes and arrange humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria, as well as help restore the healthcare systems and other human services, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, TASS reports that Aa operation for the return of 850 refugees to Syria began in southeastern Lebanon on Monday, the Al Mayadeen TV channel reported. According to the TV channel, it is the fourth and largest group of Syrian refugees who have expressed a wish to return to their homes in the Western Qalamoun area (60 kilometers from Damascus).The Lebanese Red Cross is monitoring the operation, as well as representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to Daily Star, a third installment of refugees who had signed up to return to Syria started their journey home from the Lebanese border town of Arsal Monday morning. The group of approximately 900 refugees will head to the Syrian town Qara east of Qalamoun. On June 28, the first group of nearly 400 refugees returned from Arsal, followed by a second group of 377 on July 7.

A fourth group is set to follow in the coming days, according to comments made by General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim to LBCI last week. The returning families are part of a list of over 3,000 people who had signed up in Arsal, where tens of thousands of refugees who fled the violence of Syria’s seven-year civil war are still estimated to be residing in camps. The list also went through General Security to ensure there are no security concerns for the returning families.

The number of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon reaches 1.5 mln.