The war in Syria, now in its eighth year, continues to take its toll on the Syrian people. Over half of the population of Syria remains displaced (as of September 2018), with more than 5.6 million registered as refugees outside of country and another 6.2 million displaced within Syria's borders. The internally displaced include two million school-aged children, with less than half attending school. Another 739,000 Syrian children are out of school in five neighboring countries that host Syria's refugees. The loss of human capital is staggering, and it will create permanent hardship for generations of Syrians.
Despite the tragic prospects for renewed fighting in certain parts of the country, an overall reduction in armed conflict is possible. However, international experience shows that the absence of fighting is rarely a singular trigger for return of displaced people. Numerous other factors, including improved security and socioeconomic conditions in origin states, access to property and assets, the availability of key services, and restitution in home areas play important roles in shaping the scale and composition of returns. Overall, refugees have their own calculus of return that considers all these factors and assesses available options.
This study sheds light on the “mobility calculus” of Syrian refugees. While dismissing any policies that imply wrongful practices involving forced repatriation, the study analyzes factors that may be considered by refugees in their own decision to relocate. By doing so, it aims to provide a fact-based and transparent framework to support a concerted dialogue among concerned parties.