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Turkey promises 100,000 houses for Syrians displaced by war

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Turkey vowed on Sunday to complete construction of 100,000 houses in war-torn Syria, as Ankara pushes to settle Syrian refugees who fled more than a decade of fighting ahead of elections, Agence France-Presse reported.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, speaking Sunday on a visit to open 600 basic homes in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib region, said 75,000 houses had been constructed in the past two years.

“We will be completing 100,000… houses by the end of the year,” Soylu said, at the ceremony in the newly-built settlement made up of rows of brick bungalows at Mashhad Ruhin, which lies close to the Turkish border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said in recent months he wanted to encourage one million of the country’s 3.7 million Syrian refugees to return home by building them housing and providing basic infrastructure.

Ahead of Turkey’s presidential elections next year, the presence of refugees has become a thorny political issue, especially with Ankara mired in an economic crisis.

Syria’s civil began in 2011 with the regime’s brutal repression of mostly peaceful protesters, and millions have been forced to flee, now displaced internally and abroad.

Ankara and militia forces it supports have seized swathes of territory along the Syrian border during several military operations since 2016.

Turkey says it wants to create a “safe zone” along its border to stop Syrians displaced by war from crossing, and to send back some of the millions who already have.

Erdoğan said more than half a million Syrians who had fled to Turkey have returned home to these safe zones.

More than 500 families now live in the newly opened settlement at Mashhar Ruhin, with 100 more due to arrive in coming days, the latest in series of Ankara-sponsored housing projects.

Hadiya Al-Taha, 70, used to live in a tent with her daughter after fleeing fighting in southern Idlib four years ago.

“Residential blocks are better than tents, you can’t even compare the two,” she said, as she moved her meagre possessions of mattresses, blankets and some household utensils to the house.

But she still misses her original home and farm.

“Our village house was the best,” she said.

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