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Over 10,000 Syrian refugees return to homeland after quake: Turkish defense minister

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-02-19 20:35
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A Syrian who lived in Turkiye, walks as he crosses into Syria at Bab al-Hamam in Afrin, Syria Feb 17, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

ANKARA -- Turkiye said on Sunday that at least 10,633 Syrian refugees in the country have returned to their homeland voluntarily after the devastating earthquakes that hit southern Turkiye earlier this month.

"Our Syrian brothers, who lost their families and places of stay in the earthquake, returned to their lands voluntarily," Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said during his visit to the military border outposts in the quake-hit southern province of Hatay.

The minister refuted the allegations that Syrians were flooding into the Turkish border after the massive earthquakes which also hit northern Syria, the semi-official Anadolu Agency reported.

"These claims are completely untrue. There is no crossing from the border gate or the borderline. We received information from the relevant authorities and conducted on-site investigations. Contrary to the claim that there is an intense crossing to Turkiye, they stated that Syrian citizens pass from Turkiye to Syria in one direction," the Anadolu quoted Akar as saying.

Turkiye hosts nearly 3.5 million Syrian refugees that fled their country after a civil war erupted in 2011. Nearly half of the refugees have been taking shelter in southern Turkiye which was recently hit by devastating quakes that have caused tremendous destruction in the region.

More than 46,000 people have died in Turkiye and Syria since twin 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes struck the Turkish southern province of Kahramanmaras on Feb 6.

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