UNHCR: War in Syria Ended but Terrorist Pockets Remain

Islamic State FightersWASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The war in Syria is over but pockets of Daesh terrorists and other extremist groups still remain in numerous hard to reach areas, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Middle East and North Africa Bureau Director Amin Awad told Sputnik.

“There are some active skirmishes and some nasty groups still inside the country and we have to be very careful,” Awad said on Thursday. “There are still many pockets of ISIS [Daesh] in Syria, so security wise that’s what we mean by hard to reach areas.”

Awad explained that the terminology concerning the situation in Syria has to change, given that the war has effectively ended, but noted that the hard to reach areas remain numerous.

“There are places in the northwest, near Idlib, there are places in the northeast, there are places around Der ez Zor,” Awad said.

Earlier in the day, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told Sputnik that the agency is ready to visit hard to reach and other areas to observe the process of refugee return if additional opportunities to access areas are provided.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilya Morgunov said that Russia planned to offer UNHCR study visits to Syria to assess the situation of refugee returns on the spot. Moscow said it intends to make the proposal at the next trilateral Russia-EU-UNHCR meeting on November 15.

The UNHCR currently has over 500 local and foreign employees in Syria. The head office of the commissioner is located in Damascus, and there are also offices in Aleppo, Homs and Qamishli as well as two field offices in Tartus and As Suwayda.

The United Nations estimates there are 6.2 million internally displaced persons in Syria, and 5.5 million refugees abroad.

Eighty two percent of refugees have told the UNHCR in via surveys that they will go back to Syria provided there is physical security and they obtain their property as well as have basic services available.