Syria ready to take one million returning refugees: Moscow

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump discussed the return of refugees at a summit in Helsinki last month. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 28 August 2018
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Syria ready to take one million returning refugees: Moscow

  • The war that erupted in 2011, one of the most devastating conflicts since World War II, has displaced more than half of Syria’s population
  • Most civilians fled to neighboring countries, particularly Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon

MOSCOW: Russia’s defense minister said on Tuesday that war-torn Syria would be ready to accept one million returning refugees, following Moscow-backed reconstruction work.
“Since 2015, when towns and villages gradually started to be freed, more than one million people have returned home,” Sergei Shoigu said in comments reported by Russian news agencies.
“Now every opportunity has been created for the return of roughly one million (more) refugees,” he told journalists.
“Huge infrastructure reconstruction work is ongoing, the rebuilding of transport routes and security points so that Syria can begin accepting refugees.”
Russia, a long-time ally of Syria, launched a military intervention in 2015 to support the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad, a move that changed the course of the war.
Assad and his allies have since recovered swathes of territory and the government is turning its attention to post-conflict reconstruction, with the aid of Moscow.
The war that erupted in 2011, one of the most devastating conflicts since World War II, has displaced more than half of Syria’s population, including more than five million beyond its borders.
Most of them fled to neighboring countries, particularly Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump discussed the return of refugees at a summit in Helsinki last month.
Moscow later said it had put forward plans to Washington to cooperate on their return to Syria but details have yet to be confirmed.


Syria's Kurds hand three Russian orphans to Moscow

Updated 25 March 2019
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Syria's Kurds hand three Russian orphans to Moscow

  • Three Russian orphans were handed to a delegation from Moscow who will transfer them back home

QAMISHLI: The Kurdish administration in northeast Syria said Monday it handed over three Russian orphans to a delegation from Moscow who will transfer them back home.
Kurdish foreign affairs official Abdel Karim Omar said the children, aged five to seven, are being sent back at the request of Russia.
He told AFP their parents had been affiliated with the Daesh group, although it was not immediately clear how or when they arrived in Syria.
A member of the Russian government delegation said the siblings are from the country's North Caucasus region. The majority-Muslim southern territory is home to most of the Russians that joined Daesh.
Nelly Kouskova said the children were orphaned nearly one year ago, without providing details.
Their aunt back in Russia had asked authorities to help bring them home, Kouskova told a press conference.
Since the death of their parents the children have been living in the Al-Hol camp, a Kurdish-run shelter designed to accomodate 20,000 people.
But due to the mass exodus of people fleeing the battle to oust Daesh from its final strip of territory -- over which Kurdish-led forces claimed victory on Saturday -- the numbers have swelled to 70,000.
More than 9,000 foreigners, including over 6,500 children, are being held in the overcrowded camp, the Kurdish administration said on Monday.
Syria's Kurds have repeatedly called for the repatriation of foreign Daesh suspects and their relatives.
But the home countries of suspected Daesh members are reluctant to take them back, due to potential security risks and the likely public backlash.
Russia, however, can be seen as a pioneer in systematically returning children of suspected jihadists home.
Last month, 27 children aged four to 13 were flown from Iraq to the Moscow region. That followed the repatriation from Iraq of 30 children in late December.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in late 2017 called the drive to return the children "a very honourable and correct deed" and promised to help.
Some other foreign governments have also taken steps to bring the children of militants home.
France has repatriated five orphaned children of French militants' from camps in northeast Syria, the government said on March 15, in the first such transfer.
Belgium has said it will help the repatriation of children younger than 10, as long as the link with one Belgian parent is proven.