Nearly 42,000 Syrian refugees in Türkiye have voluntarily returned to their homeland following the massive earthquakes that caused tremendous destruction in the region, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday.
The Syrians, who were affected by the deadly quakes on Feb. 6 and “lost their home, children and relatives” in southern Türkiye, have been returning to their country, the minister told reporters at a press conference in southern Hatay province.
Türkiye hosts nearly 3.5 million Syrian refugees who fled their country after a civil war erupted in 2011. Nearly half of the refugees have been taking shelter in southern Türkiye which was heavily hit by devastating quakes.
The Turkish government last year banned Syrian refugees with temporary protection permits to make roundtrips between the two neighboring countries to encourage a thorough return to their homeland.
The government has loosened move-around travel restrictions for refugees after the quakes, allowing them to go and stay up to six months in Syria before coming back to Türkiye.
More than 46,000 people have died in Türkiye and Syria since 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes struck the Turkish southern province of Kahramanmaras on Feb. 6. ■