Turkish minister unveils plans to build 240,000 houses during Syria visit
Turkey plans to build 240,000 housing units in regions of Syria under its control, Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu announced on Saturday during a visit in the region of Tal Abyad in northern Syria.
"Turkey plans to build 240,000 homes in the cities of Jarabulus, Al-Bab, Ras Al-Ain and Tal Abyad," Soylu stated during the visit. "These homes will be built with the support of Muslims and with international aid."
Soylu met with tribal leaders around Tal Abyad and highlighted Turkey's willingness to help Syrian refugees "return voluntarily" to Syria, citing the 60,000 housing units recently built by Turkish NGOs in Idlib governorate in northwest Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in early May that Ankara was aiming to encourage one million Syrian refugees to return to their country by building them housing and local infrastructure there.
Ankara maintains a military presence in northwestern Syria, where it backs rebel groups that - along with extremist Islamist groups - control most of the region.
Turkey has been threatening for weeks to invade other parts of northern Syria, controlled by the Kurds, in a bid to root out Kurdish groups considered by Ankara as "terrorists" and create a buffer zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.
Meanwhile, Kurds regularly denounce Turkey's incursions in northern Syria, saying Ankara intends to forcibly displace them and change the demographics of the area by encouraging Syrian Arab refugees to settle there.
Turkey hosts an estimated 3.7 million Syrian refugees, who have become a target of mounting racism and xenophobia. Amid a worsening economic situation and rising unemployment, Syrians have suffered increasing discrimination, with some being rounded up and arbitrarily deported to war zones in Syria by Turkish authorities.
Refugees used to be allowed to cross into Syria to visit their families and then return for Muslim religious holidays, but they were this year told returning to Syria would be a "one way ticket."