GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is warning people against returning prematurely to war-torn Syria as the number of displaced going back to their homes reaches a record high.
An IOM report found more than 600,000 displaced Syrians have returned home in the first seven months of this year, nearly as many as the total number of returnees for all of 2016.
IOM spokeswoman Olivia Haedon said most of the returns are spontaneous, but not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable.
“As the security situation changes in different parts of the country, displacement can occur again," she said. "As you noted, in the number of people who were displaced this year, which is over 800,000, some people are being displaced for the second or third time.”
The report said most of the people returning to their homes, 84 percent, are internally displaced, while 16 percent are returning refugees from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. It said an estimated two-thirds have returned to Aleppo Governorate. Others have gone mainly to Idleb, Hama, Raqqa, and Rural Damascus Governorates.
Haedon said people cite a variety of reasons for their decision to go home.
“They are going back with the hope that they can stay to protect their property and engage in a better, improved economic situation, or, protect themselves if they are leaving because of the area that they were living was less secure than the place that they originated from," she said. "So, we do see that the people are hoping that they can stay for a longer term.”
Haedon said humanitarian organizations agree organized returns to Syria are not yet an option. Syria is not safe, she added, and the places to which people return are not equipped to provide essential services.
She said the IOM is not encouraging Syrians to go home.