iMMAP announces the completion of the Returns Context Monitoring project. Funded by the EU Humanitarian Aid, the project was centered on Syrian refugee and internally displaced people (IDP) returns, and the barriers that Syrians face in safely and securely returning within or to their country or place of origin.
With a budget of EUR 500,000, the Returns Context Monitoring project formally kicked-off on July 15th, 2020, and officially ended on May 14th, 2021.
Throughout this 10-month endeavour, iMMAP produced 13 area-based reports and five thematic reports. The area-based reports provided nuanced analyses and insights to understand the local environments and conditions for returnees and residents, specifically the key barriers to return.
The thematic reports focused on pathways for refugee returns, as well as the dynamics and conditions that play a vital role in understanding the broader returns landscape. These reports detailed the costs, logistics, and considerations for return pathways from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey including case studies of pathways to specific destinations as well as maps spotlighting the common return routes. A fifth comparative report was also completed to highlight key findings and present indicators to watch that may signal change in each context.
To develop these reports, iMMAP employed and adhered to a systematic qualitative data collection strategy centered on key informant interviews (KIIs) conducted with a wide range of stakeholders. Primary data collection was further supplemented by desk research and open-source media review.
Through research and analysis, the project found significant challenges both in the pathways of return as well as the conditions faced upon arrival. Returnees face high financial costs, personal security risk, and uncertainty in the journey to return.
Additionally, access to return is not guaranteed. Through much of 2020, COVID-19 travel restrictions impacted freedom of movement, closing borders and crossline crossings impacting prospects for return. Even as these restrictions loosen, barriers remain. Many areas that saw mass displacement – especially areas that have recently seen control change – maintain strict restrictions on return and require security clearances to be able to enter.
Further, returnees face significant challenges in securing livelihoods and accessing basic services. Like all Syrians, returnees are subject to the compounded impacts of a decade-long conflict exacerbated by the ongoing deterioration of the Syrian economy and devaluation of the Syrian Pound. In addition, returnees are subject to unique costs and challenges related to their reinstallation in their community of origin, including access to basic services, education, and meaningful employment especially in the public sector. Such challenges pose significant barriers to securing adequate livelihoods and successful return and reintegration.
Given these challenges, many refugee returnees have expressed regret for leaving their host country. While the majority of those who remain in refuge express the desire to return to Syria someday, very few currently have the intention to return in the near future.