Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Sunday his pledge to send back a million Syrian refugees on a voluntary basis.
“Since the start of our cross-border operations in Syria (in 2016), about 526,000 volunteers have returned to the safety zones that we established,” Erdogan told the Turkish parliament.
He said that Ankara aims to encourage them to return to “safe zones” on the Türkiye -Syria border by building them housing and local infrastructure.
There are 3.7 million Syrian refugees officially living in Türkiye.
Ankara launched a project to build 250,000 houses in Idlib, in cooperation with civil society organizations.
Erdogan called on the international community to continue funding housing and infrastructure projects in northwestern Syria, which is controlled by Türkiye and the opposition factions loyal to it.
Less than nine months from presidential elections, the refugees’ presence in the country has become a thorny political issue, especially as Türkiye battles an economic and monetary crisis.
Opposition parties regularly call on authorities to send millions of Syrians home.
Separately, many business owners in Türkiye have demanded keeping Syrian workers in the country, given the problems that resulted from the departure of thousands of Syrians, whether those who returned voluntarily to their country or sought refuge in Europe.
Recent studies revealed a shortage of manpower in various sectors in the country.
The study cited complaints that Turkish workers do not accept the salaries Syrians were taking.
It further pointed out that most Syrians accept to work without social or health insurance, which reduces the financial burden on business owners.
Syrians residing in Türkiye have recently launched social media campaigns to head to Europe against the backdrop of the rising hate speech against them in the country.