On November 5, 2023, the Jarablos Local Council announced that it had begun accepting requests from some Syrians now living in Türkiye to enter and leave Syria via the Jarablos Border Crossing, which is controlled by the Syrian National Army (SNA); this opportunity is only available to those Syrians in Türkiye who hold temporary protection documents (as opposed to the older system, under which only Syrians living in Gaziantep or those with Turkish citizenship were allowed to travel to Syria). The Jarablos Local Council has declared that, under these new regulations a fee of $200, which was subsequently reduced to $100, must be paid for every individual wishing to enter Syria, with only children aged three or younger exempted from payment. These fees, which go directly to the local council, should be paid via relatives of the applicants who are still resident in Syria, or by transferring the sum to a Türkiye-based bank account belonging to the council. This is despite the fact that visits formerly sanctioned by the Turkish government never required the payment of any fees by Syrians wishing to visit their relatives in Syria.
In this context, it is important to note that Turkish authorities have not issued any official decision regarding visits to Syria by Syrians holding temporary protection documents. In other words, this decision and announcement have been made solely by the local council in Syria, meaning that people entering Syria via the Jarablos Border Crossing will receive only a document from the local council itself, with no corresponding documents being issued by Turkish authorities to guarantee that they can return to Türkiye at the end of their visit. Since June 11, 2022, when Süleyman Soylu, the then-Turkish Ministry of Interior, announced that Türkiye would stop issuing visas to Syrian holders of temporary protection documents living in Türkiye to enable them to visit their families during the two Eids of Fitr and Adha, some Turkish provinces in border areas have agreed to issue visas only to Syrian holders of residency documents in those provinces, or those with Turkish citizenship who meet certain criteria.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) strongly condemns the council’s or any other body’s decision to impose fees on Syrians returning to their country from any place in the world. In SNHR’s view, the council’s imposition of these fees is wholly illegitimate and violates Syrians’ right to return to their home country at any time they wish. We call on the local councils in northern Syria and the Interim Syrian Government, which manages the Jarablos Border Crossing on the Syrian side, to cancel these abusive fees. The amount demanded is also impossibly high, given the straitened financial circumstances of Syrians in Türkiye, due to the dire economic situation, especially following the devastating February 6 earthquakes that struck southern Türkiye and northern Syria, and would effectively leave Syrians unable to see their families in Syria.