Turkey’s president says the country is to send back around one million Syrian refugees to northern Syria, under a plan aimed at enabling their resettlement in houses partially built by Turkey there.
“We are backing up our strategy with projects to encourage the returns,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday. “We are preparing a project to realize our one million Syrian brothers’ return.”
Under the scheme, the Turkish government would seek to accommodate the Syrians in 100,000 houses in the militant-held northern Syria province of Idlib, the London-based news and analysis website, the Middle East Eye (MEE) reported.
Critics remind that since 2011— when Syria found itself in the grip of rampant violence fueled by several regional countries, including Turkey, and others —Idlib has been serving as a safe haven for the militants and terrorists who would flee there from Damascus’ anti-terror operations.
They warn that the Syrians, whom Ankara seeks to repatriate, might include a considerable number of former militants, something that threatens to compound the situation in the province or result in the spillover of violence elsewhere.
“All infrastructure projects, from housing to hospitals, everything regarding daily life will be in this project,” Erdogan said.
Turkey currently hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees and 1.7 million other foreign nationals, the MEE reported.
The Turkish opposition and conservative politicians are, meanwhile, pressing Ankara to repatriate the refugees.
“The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has spearheaded the increasingly hostile anti-Syrian rhetoric,” the website said.
CHP chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu has promised to send Syrians back to their country if elected president in 2023.
Until a few weeks ago, Erdogan used to vow he would “never” send the Syrians back.