(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP
Al Ghandura, Syria: Turkiye has launched the construction of nearly a quarter million housing units to resettle refugees in rebel-held northern Syria, Turkish media said, as repatriation efforts loom large in Turkey's presidential runoff.
An AFP correspondent on Wednesday saw builders working and heavy machinery being used at the side on the outskirts of the town of Al-Ghandura, in the Jarabulus area near the Turkish border.
"Syrian refugees living in Turkiye will settle in the houses... as part of a dignified, voluntary safe return," Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Wednesday at the launch of the project, according to private Turkish news agency IHA.
He said that "240,000 houses will be built" in the region, expressing hope that the project would be completed in three years, IHA added.
Since Syria's war broke out in 2011, neighbouring Turkiye has taken in more than three million people who fled the fighting.
Most have "temporary protection" status, leaving them vulnerable to a forced return.
Anti-refugee sentiments have been running high in Turkiye and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hardened his once-accepting stance towards people displaced by war as he fights for re-election in a presidential runoff this weekend.
Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has pledged to send "all the refugees home" if he wins.
The construction site Soylu visited was formerly an air strip.
Earlier this month, Erdogan pledged to build some 200,000 homes in 13 locations in Syria, aiming to resettle some one million refugees, local media reported.
In November, Soylu paid a visit to open 600 basic homes in Syria's rebel-held Idlib region, saying 75,000 houses had been constructed in the previous two years.
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