UN concerned as more Syrians return home from Jordan

AFP , Friday 12 Apr 2013

UN expresses deep concern as around 300 Syrian refugees in Jordan return home on daily basis despite shortages of food, fuel and electricity

More Syrian refugees are opting to return home from Jordan, with around 300 now crossing back into the war-ravaged country each day, the UN's refugee agency said Friday, voicing deep concern for their safety.

UNHCR said it had seen an increase in the past 10 days in the number of people crossing from Jordan into Syria, although it stressed that a far larger number of Syrians continued to flood across the border in the opposite direction.

Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming explained that people were opting to return home for a number of reasons, including reports of improved security in a number of border villages, and to protect their property.

Many also want to reunite with family members or fetch left-behind relatives and bring them back to Jordan, Fleming told reporters in Geneva.

On average, 300 people a day had over the past week and a half decided to leave Jordan and return mainly to villages close to the border in the Syrian governorate of Daraa.

"A sizeable part of this governorate remains a battleground and UNHCR fears for the safety of the returnees, the vast majority of whom are families," said Fleming.

The agency, "is very concerned that refugees are returning to areas blighted by shortages of food, lack of fuel and electricity and limited services," she said, also stressing that the security situation remains "volatile."

A week ago, the Jordanian government said that nearly 35,000 Syrian refugees had decided to return to Syria since the conflict in that country began in March 2011.

Fleming stressed Friday that far more people are still fleeing the spiralling violence in Syria than opting to return to it, with some 2,000 people crossing from the war-torn country into Jordan on a daily basis.

"The total number of Syrian refugees who have spontaneously returned is less than one percent of the total arrivals," she said.

Jordan says it is already hosting nearly 500,000 Syrian refugees, and the UN expects as many as 1.2 Syrians to have sought refuge in the country by the end of this year.

In all, some 1.3 million people have so far fled Syria to neighbouring countries since the beginning of the conflict, which has cost well over 70,000 lives.

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