In this study, the Voices for Displaced Syrians (VDSF) and the Operations and Policy Center (OPC) undertook a first-of-its-kind research project to establish the minimum frequency and types of violations experienced by returnees throughout the whole-of-Syria, informed by their perspectives and experiences. Despite the known difficulties, the report aimed at obtaining an understanding of at least the minimum prevalence at which violations occur, which is a critical step in return discussions. Indeed, if the safety of returnees cannot be ensured at that baseline, then it is unlikely that the true regularity at which violations occur could ensure safety for the average Syrian who has fled. This should enable policymakers to make more informed decisions around return to Syria.
The project took a systemic approach and surveyed 300 returnees across all four control areas in the country, assessing the findings against the UN’s 22 Protection Thresholds that must be met before mass voluntary returns can be initiated. The final report details violations on multiple scales including physical, psychosocial, material, and legal safety. Moreover, the project distinguishes itself from previous research by defining returnees not only as refugees who have returned to Syria from abroad, but also internally displaced Syrians who return to their area of origin from a different control area. The sample was split equally between returnees from abroad and from within the country, which allowed the research to capture greater nuance on the challenges internal returnees experience as well.
Title: Data Shows Nowhere in Syria is Safe for Return
Author: Ashley Jordan, Samy Akil, Karam Shaar
Published by: Operations and Policy Center (OPC), Middle East Institute (MEI)
Date: December 2021