Müzeyyen Yüce/ DUVAR

Turkey intends to establish a safe zone in northern Syria alongside its border in which it aims to resettle at least 1 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey. Ankara is waiting on the EU to allocate resources for the safe zone. 

According to Research Center on Asylum and Migration (İGAM) President Metin Çorabatır, for a safe zone to be established, the requirements include international approval and the consent of the refugees who are intended to be resettled in the area. Çorabatır said that the figure of 1 million refugees returning to that region of Syria is unrealistic. 

“Out of the nearly four million Syrian refugees in Turkey, it is estimated that 300 thousand to 400 thousand came from that region. It is possible to talk about their return. However in order to ensure to the resettlement of those from outside of the region, certain incentives could be made, such as the establishment of a peaceful and calm atmosphere and ensuring their safety and physical requirements,” Çorabatır said. 

“For that to happen, an agreement in compliance with international law must be made. From this perspective, when we look at this safe zone it does not seem practical to me that 1 million people could be resettled there,” he said. 

According to Çorabatır, a safe atmosphere has not yet been guaranteed in the area: “Whether or not it is in accordance with international criteria, there may be those who make a spontaneous return out of their own will. There also may be those who say they do not want to return to their home or their village. But that region has just emerged from a [military] operation and security measures are ongoing including searches for landmines and inspections of tunnels,” he said. 

Çorabatır said that an agreement that is internationally valid would have to be signed with the Syrian government, and that Damascus would have to guarantee in terms, the most important of which is the security of the safe zone. 

“To which Syria will these people return? Recently Germany accused Turkey of being an occupier, and now they are talking about a safe zone on the border under the control of NATO. This is because they want to prevent their nightmare, which is an influx of refugees from Turkey. With what purpose is NATO going to control this area? The borders of the safe zone must be clearly determined,” Çorbatır said. 

Adding that building homes in the safe zone to the house the returning refugees would constitute considerable costs, Çorabatır said Turkey is waiting on funds from the EU, but that the current conditions are lacking for the principles required for safe return and the acceptance of an international plan.