Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to send around a million refugees back to their Syrian homeland. The voluntary project, which also involves local and international organizations and representatives of affected regions, is already “fairly mature,” said Erdogan on Tuesday in a video message for the inauguration of thousands of log houses for refugees who want to return to Idlib in northwestern Syria.
Turkey is currently hosting around five million refugees. The majority of them, over 3.6 million, are Syrians who fled their homeland before the 2011 civil war. Of them, according to Erdogan, around 500,000 people have returned to “safe zones” set up by Turkey along its border since 2016.
Erdogan is faced with growing public displeasure at the presence of the refugees in Turkey. He fears the issue could dominate next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Aid organizations worry that the refugees will be used as a scapegoat for the country’s problems in the 2023 election campaign.