250,000 Syrian refugees could return home next year: UNHCR

UN seeks $5.5bn to help countries hosting displaced Syrians

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen (3rd-L) and his wife Doris Schmidauer (4th-L) meet with Syrian refugee children at a camp near the village of Hawsh Al-Nabi, in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley. — AFP

GENEVA — Up to 250,000 Syrian refugees could return to their devastated homeland in 2019, while many others face problems with documentation and property that the Damascus government must help resolve, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday.

Some 5.6 million Syrian refugees remain in neighboring countries — Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq — Amin Awad, UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa, told a news briefing. Some 37,000 have returned this year, UNHCR figures show.

“We are forecasting in this phase up to 250,000 Syrians go back in 2019. That figure can go up and down according to the pace with which we are working and removing these obstacles to return,” Awad said.

The United Nations and aid partners on Tuesday said they need $5.5 billion to support countries hosting millions of Syrian refugees, including a million babies born in displacement.

The “Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan” aims to help Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey deal with the impact of hosting some 5.6 million Syrian refugees.

The $5.5 billion plan for 2019-2020 by the UN and more than 200 partner aid groups is designed to target more than nine million people across five countries, a statement said.

It will fund several projects for refugees, including education for children as well as “enhancing basic services and economic opportunities”, it added. — Agencies