‘People We Fled Were There in Germany’: Syrian Refugees Head Home
Many Syrians who made perilous sea journeys to Europe to flee the civil war are now returning.
A small but growing number of refugees are returning to Syria, including some who made a dangerous sea journey to Europe to flee the war.
Since Syria's war began in March 2011, some five million Syrian have poured across the border, mostly to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
But with a lack of job opportunities, harsh weather conditions and language barriers, coupled with a slight improvement of conditions in Syria, some Syrian refugees have started returning home.
Adeeb Ayoub, 13, had left with his uncle in 2015 to Germany hoping that he would be able to reunite with his parents and three siblings in Europe.
Waiting for two years without being able to bring his family to Germany, Ayoub's parents told him to return after his hometown Aleppo became safer following the December 2016 government forces' recapture of rebel-held east Aleppo.
Asked if he plans to go to Germany again, the returnee said: "I will not go back, because this is our country. If we go to another country, to Germany, the people there are not like us. They belong to a different religion."
Photographer Spiro Haddad left and returned in 2015, after spending a few months in Austria.
After arriving in Turkey to head to Europe, Haddad, a Christian, was stunned to be among fellow Syrians who expressed support to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front as well as some who backed the Islamic State group (IS).
Those who make it to Europe often get assistance, but some find the West doesn't hold the opportunities they hoped – or they face discrimination or feel alienated in a different culture.
Ammar Maarawi fled Syria to Europe in early 2016.
He endured the humiliation of paying smugglers, a perilous crossing on a packed boat to reach Greece, followed by a trek across several European countries to reach his destination.
Within months, depressed and homesick, he decided he couldn't handle life in cold Germany and returned to his city in northern Syria, which at the time was still a warzone.
Asked if he would return to Europe, he said: "Living as a refugee is humiliating. If I get a work contract, I would go, but as a refugee – no."
Syrian officials say they do not have exact numbers for returnees, adding that many of them return through Lebanon and are not questioned on whether they were refugees or not.
But the stream of returnees may grow over the coming year as more parts of Syria become stable and as hostility towards refugees in host nations grows.
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.