More than 1 million Syrians returned to their country: Defense minister

More than 1 million Syrian refugees have returned from Turkey to their country, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said.

"The Turkish military has been conducting operations which prevented the formation of a terror corridor in northern Syria and secured our borders. Following those operations, more than 1 million Syrians have voluntarily returned to their country, including 470,000 people to the Idlib province," Akar said in response to questions tabled by Suzan Şahin, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

The presence of the Turkish military in Idlib serves as a deterrent force to prevent a possible wave of migration from the province into Turkey, Akar also said, noting that technology intensive measures are being implemented to secure the border.

The minister added the terror groups PKK/YPG/PYD do not operate only in the east of the Euphrates River but also other parts of Syria.

"All measures are taken where the terror groups have a presence and our fight against terrorism continues," Akar said.

The wave of Syrian refugees, following the breakout of the civil conflict there, started in 2012 when more than 14,000 Syrians arrived in Turkey. The number of Syrian refugees increased over the years, breaching the 3.5 million-mark in 2018 to hit 3.6 million people in that year.

Most of the Syrian refugees - over 500,000 - live in Istanbul, while the southeastern province of Gaziantep is home to 460,000 Syrians, according to data from the Presidency of Migration Management.

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