Update: Durable Solutions for Syrian Refugees
The November/December 2018 update on durable solutions for Syrian refugees focuses on: i) interagency preparedness planning efforts for refugee return; ii) the revised methodology for the next rounds of refugee intentions surveys, and; iii) a brief update on complementary pathways.
Interagency Preparedness Planning for Refugee Return
The conflict in Syria continues to drive the largest displacement crisis in the world. Over six million people remain internally displaced and there are over 5.6 million refugees across the region. The conflict is now in its eighth year, with refugees continuing to require access to territory, international protection and humanitarian support in host countries. Meanwhile, some refugees have been returning in a spontaneous, self-organized manner since the beginning of the crisis in movements not organized or assisted by UNHCR. Although the number of returnees remains low as compared to the number of refugees in host countries, the pace of returns to Syria has increased over the previous two years, with over 93,000 refugee returns verified by UNHCR from the start of 2017 through November 2018. It is important to highlight that this figure is an underestimate, as it only includes returns verified by UNHCR.
While UNHCR is not facilitating large-scale return due to the current conditions inside Syria, return preparedness has risen as a prominent issue to be addressed proactively. In view of a possible further increase of refugee returns in 2019, an Interagency Preparedness Plan for Refugee Return was developed by the Regional Durable Solutions Working Group, which works within the framework of the 3RP. The purpose of this Plan is to set a regional interagency framework and action plan through which country operations develop/update countryspecific interagency preparedness plans for a potential scenario of 250,000-500,000 refugee returns. The Plan confirms/articulates standards, policies, approaches and actions at regional and country levels.
The Regional Plan was initially developed in October and endorsed on 7 November 2018 by the Regional Durable Solutions Working Group. At country level, preparedness planning through the Durable Solutions and/ or Inter-Sector groups is taking place during the months of December 2018 and January 2019. The countrylevel plans on refugee return will align with the Regional Plan, while also reflecting respective context-specific needs, limitations and opportunities. Both regional and country plans remain rooted in and aligned with the Comprehensive Protection and Solutions Strategy: Protection Thresholds and Parameters for Return to Syria.
Looking forward, the Plan will be updated and reviewed as needed based on contextual changes in Syria and host countries. Moreover, it is expected that once the country plans will be finalized, key elements will be consolidated into a summary plan, providing an overview of both regional and countries’ preparedness plans.
On a final note, while preparedness planning efforts are taking place, the interagency community’s engagement on refugee return remains primarily focused on refugee counselling, monitoring cross-border movements, analysis of return trends, advocacy, and removing obstacles to return for those making a free and informed choice to do so.