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Russia: Greater efforts needed to allow Syria refugees to return home

A Syrian mother and her child are seen outside a makeshift home in a refugee camp that hosts displaced Syrians [Muhammed Abdullah/Anadolu Agency]

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov said yesterday that more efforts are needed to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their country.

The Russian minister made the remarks during a meeting with UN Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, in Moscow.

Lavrov explained that Russia “has made achievements in the Syrian file through cooperation with the United Nations and the region’s countries”, adding that this cooperation was through the Astana summits as well as the resolution of serious humanitarian crises in areas cleared of terrorists.

Lavrov said that the Arab League summit held in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Sunday has addressed the issue of the refugees’s return to Syria.

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Last month the UN refugee agency said a quarter of a million Syrian refugees could return home in 2019, although many still face problems with documentation and property.

However the UN statement recognised that certain obstacles were deterring refugee return, including property ownership documentation demanded by the Syrian regime, forced conscription and the presence of mines and unexploded devices in civilian areas.

The fear of reprisals by the Syrian regime is also frequently cited by aid groups as one of the main reasons refugees give for not wanting to return home. Amid the breaking down of various reconciliation agreements, regime forces have attempted to further consolidate their control through a campaign of arrests and detentions.

Despite violating the terms of the negotiation deals, hundreds of refugees who have opted to make the precarious journey home, as well as former fighters, have found themselves arbitrarily detained. Even those who were not involved in the fighting, including members of the civil defence unit the White Helmets, have been targeted.

READ: Russia and Israel discuss ways to prevent troop friction in Syria

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