The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hosted a conference in Damascus on November 11-12 with the aim of convincing millions of Syrian refugees to return home. The United Nations and European Union declined invitations to send representatives, calling the conference “premature.”
Still, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad doubled down on November 17, insisting that Syria is making tremendous efforts to ensure the safe and unconditional return of Syrian refugees. His comments came during a televised dialogue with a Russian delegation concerning a purported “media war against Syria.” Syrian-Russian committees were meeting on the refugee issue.
“Western countries are hindering [refugees’] return so they can use them to put political pressure on Syria,” Mekdad said. “These countries are using the pain of every Syrian refugee outside their homeland to serve their political ends.”
That narrative is false, however. In fact, many Syrian refugees won’t go back home because Syria has not met the United Nations-mandated conditions for their safe return.
The 10-year civil war in Syria has killed more than 400,000 people and forced 5 million others to seek refuge in more than 127 countries. Most refugees fled to neighboring countries, with Turkey hosting more than 3.7 million. Another 844,000 are in Lebanon, while 672,000 are in Jordan and 250,000 are in Iraq.
More than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced.