Perspectives on the Return of Syrian Refugees

Leïla Vignal

Forced Migration Review 57, February 2018, pp. 69-71


Discussions about the imminent return of large numbers of Syrian refugees are premature. Approximately two thirds of the former 21 million inhabitants of Syria have been forced to leave their homes (6.3 million IDPs, 5.2 million registered refugees and up to three million unregistered refugees). There is increasing talk of refugee returns, prompted by the new military situation in Syria, closure of borders by neighboring countries, deteriorating conditions in Jordan and Lebanon, and high cost of humanitarian assistance. The author argues that these discussions are misguided because: the conflict continues, and the ‘quiet’ places of today may not be safe tomorrow; Syrian refugees do not want to go back to ‘stable and low-tension areas’ but to their own places of origin; and access to livelihoods, homes, infrastructure, basic services, education and health provision in Syria has disintegrated. Moreover, return cannot precede the political settlement of the war, and return requires: (a) the guarantee of safety, security and absence of retaliation; and (b) some prospect of a future in Syria, including reconstruction. While there is much interest in post-war reconstruction activities, it is not clear how these will be funded.