On Tuesday, the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, announced that Syria will be ready to accept one million returning refugees, AFP reports.
Shoigu claimed that one million refugees have already returned since 2015 “when towns and villages started to be freed.” But now, he says, “Huge infrastructure reconstruction work is ongoing, the rebuilding of transport routes and security points so that Syria can begin accepting refugees.”
“Now every opportunity has been created for the return of roughly one million (more) refugees,” said Shoigu.
Russia, an ally of Syria, has provided military assistance to Syrian dictator President Bashar al-Assad to reestablish power in the country after it faced violence from the Syrian Civil War beginning in 2011 and the growth of ISIS. Since then, the regime has recaptured two-thirds of its territory with the help of Russia. The last enclave for the rebels is in the Idlib province, but government troops are reportedly preparing for an offensive.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, over 5.6 million fled Syria since 2011 to neighboring countries and 6.6 million are internally displaced, making it the biggest refugee crisis since WWII.
The majority of the refugees fled to countries in the region, including Turkey (3.5 million), Lebanon (976,000), Jordan (668,000), Iraq (249,000), and Egypt (130,000). An additional one million refugees fled to Europe as asylum seekers, half of whom went to Germany, according to Pew Research.