Russia is currently spearheading a drive to facilitate the return of at least two out of 5.6 million Syrian refugees. It hopes to secure international funding in the process to rebuild areas of the cash-strapped war-torn country.
While 13,000 are known to have returned there are many concerns emerging about the well-being and safety of returnees amid reports of regime reprisals. Many fear that the regime, now emboldened with its victory over the uprising, has no qualms with taking revenge on those who it views as disloyal. Of course, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad denies any accusations of such reprisals, and says the returning refugees are being treated well and provided for.
The regime and its backers in Russia and Iran, do not have enough funds to accommodate the sheer number of Syrians it hopes to return. This is why Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently on a European tour hoping to convince its leaders to dish out the funds. However, EU leaders have been adamant that any funding for the return of refugees and the reconstruction of war-ravaged areas should come hand in hand with political transition talks — something the regime has vehemently rejected.
The majority of Syrian refugees are currently residing in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and over the years have inflicted a huge financial burden upon them. This is why these countries are keen on cooperating with Russia to bring them back home.
While the refugees should eventually return, the international community should apply appropriate pressure on the regime to not only ensure their safety, but also make sure they are not marginalised politically. If not, those who return will only become radicalised, which will not bode well for the country or the region.