GENEVA – Some 250,000 Syrian refugees could return to their homeland country of origin next year, said Tuesday the UN, calling for help for the millions of other refugees in neighboring countries.
"We expect (…) that as many as 250,000 Syrians return in 2019," said Amin Awad, who heads UNHCR's operations in the Middle East and North Africa.
"This figure may change up or down depending on the speed at which we remove obstacles to return," he said.
Some 5.6 million Syrians are refugees in the region, of whom nearly 1 million were born after leaving Syria, a country in crisis since 2011, according to UNHCR figures.
Since 2015, about 117,000 refugees have returned to Syria, including 37,000 this year.
"It's about organized, totally voluntary, secure returns (…) and of course with the participation of UNHCR", said Mr. Awad.
Despite the beginnings of an imminent end to the conflict that has claimed more than 360,000 lives since 2011 and devastated vast swathes of the country's territory, Mr. Awad said he did not notice "acceleration in returns" .
This, he explained, is due to many obstacles faced by candidates, including "the lack of documents confirming their identity and title to property", or "lack of of education and health on the spot. "
UNHCR also called for $ 5.5 billion in support of Syrian refugees in 2019 and 2020 in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq .