At least $600 for passport renewal and the mandatory exchange of $100 into Syrian pounds at the official exchange rate when entering the country. These are not the only fees that Syrian citizens have to pay if they want to return to their homeland. The Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad decided to cover the huge financial costs of the war by raising money from… the returning Syrian refugees
At war, you always lose. War brings about the death of innocent people, decline of morality, and environmental degradation. On top of all that, war has disastrous consequences for the economy. The civil war in Syria, which has been going on for more than 10 years now, has caused enormous financial loss to the country.
Not only does the Syrian dictator have to manage a country in ruins, but he also owes billions of dollars to Russia and Iran for helping to defeat an uprising of armed opposition. International financial sanctions have also cut him off from support and loan opportunities. So where does one raise the funds from? The Syrian president has set his mind on profiting from the difficult situation of refugees.
The Syrian government is extorting money from its citizens
In June 2019, Bashar al-Assad publicly called on Syrians to return home. However, he failed to mention that doing so would cost them dearly. What fees must Syrians prepare for if they want to return home?
Every Syrian returning to Syria must exchange $100 for Syrian pounds (at the official rate, of course). Men, in order to avoid conscription, must pay $8,000, under the threat of having all of their family’s property and possessions seized. Failure to pay the fee can result in imprisonment and a fine, with interest accruing as the new year progresses.
Since the amendment, people who have spent a year abroad must pay $10,000. Additionally, at least $600 must be paid for passport renewal.
Is returning to Syria accepting a death sentence?
Can Syrians afford paying so many fees to return to their country? For the majority of the Syrian refugees it is not possible. But even if someone can somehow afford it – will they be safe back in Syria? A decade of crisis has almost made Syria a failed state, i.e. one whose state and social structures have collapsed, including economic collapse as well as human rights violations. A failed state is a threat to the international order.
More than half of Syrians have had to leave their homes. Many have settled in 130 countries around the world. There is no place left in Syria whose residents have not experienced violence. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian outreach has become even more limited. To make matters worse, some countries like Denmark are revoking residence permits for Syrian refugees because its’ government believes that “the security situation in some parts of Syria [has] improved significantly.”
The German government even offered Syrians financial assistance in returning to their country. Each family that had decided to do so, received up to €3,500, and travel expenses were also covered.
A German aid organization Medico International criticized the support of Syrians in returning to their homeland, calling such actions a “death fund.” Neither does the International Organization for Migration (IOM) support the return of Syrians to their country – IOM’s relevant programs have been suspended.
Turkey also sent refugees back to Syria encouraging them to settle in a so-called safe zone. But there are no safe zones in Syria. Assad’s regime forces control almost the entire country. Syrians are aware of the secret security services’ procedures and undertakings. People who have been abroad too long are automatically considered suspicious. If someone ends up in detention, and that happens way too often, they can be tortured, blackmailed, and fall victim of extortions or psychological and sexual violence.
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Everyone has the right to return
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”. This should not be associated with financial requirements, almost impossible to meet.
It is then worth asking another question. Is it possible to survive in a country devastated by war, famine, and pandemic, where there are no opportunities for work and education? Is it possible to be happy in such a country?
Laura Maksimowicz – journalist associated with non-governmental organizations. She studies international relations and focuses on migration, humanitarian aid and social issues. Member of the Salam Lab team.
Translation: Anna Babiec – philologist and translator by day, blues dancer by night; passionate about the history and culture of the Middle East. Member of the Salam Lab team.
 S. Starr, Syria’s latest economic trick: loot its refugees, Ozy.com,
 S. Kayyali, Syria’s 100 Dollar Barrier to Return. New Government Policy Prevents Syrians from Returning Home, Human Rights Watch,
 A. Słania, Pierwsze państwo w UE odsyła uchodźców do Syrii. „Jest już bezpiecznie”, Salam Lab,
 DW Made for minds, Powrót do Syrii za pieniądze niemieckiego rządu. Droga po śmierć,
 Amnesty International, Turcja: Nielegalne deportacje Syryjczyków do tzw. „bezpiecznej strefy”,
 Rzeczpospolita, Niemcy: Syryjczycy opowiadają o gwałtach w więzieniach Assada,
 Ośrodek Informacji ONZ w Warszawie, Powszechna Deklaracja Praw Człowieka.
Cover photo: 48-years-old Khalil, Syrian man from Aleppo, in UN refugee camp in 2014. Credit: IOM via flickr.com.