Syria: 1.7 million displaced citizens returned to their areas April 11, 2016 Articles 1174 Source: SANA Damascus – Deputy Prime Minister for Services Affairs, Local Administration Minister Omar Ghalawanji stressed the importance of unifying and coordinating efforts in relief works with the International organization for Immigration (IOM). During his meeting with head of the IOM William Lacy Swing and the accompanying delegation, Ghalawanji added that the government is exerting great efforts to bring citizens back to their cities and towns after Syrian Arab Army restores security and stability to these areas. Ghalawanji pointed out that about 1.7 million citizens have returned to their original areas of residence after the government repaired and restored infrastructure and public facilities in these areas, noting that the government is still overseeing more than 500 temporary housing centers and providing their occupants’ basic needs, as well as launching new projects for makeshift housing centers in Damascus Countryside and Homs, each of which contains 2,000 residence and are funded entirely by the government. Ghalawanji talked about “My Project” program launched by the government in cooperation with the Syria Trust for Development, which aims at giving small loans to needy families to secure their needs and enhance local economies. The Minister also reviewed the mechanics of the work performed by the Higher Committee for Relief which he chairs, and the measurements taken to facilitate the access of humanitarian and food convoys to all areas, particularly areas besieged by terrorist organizations. Ghalawanji said that the government provided the necessary facilitations for UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), noting that since the beginning of 2016, 150 joint convoys entered 37 areas which are difficult to reach, which benefited around one million citizens, adding that tens of billions of Syrian Pounds were paid in compensation to citizens whose homes and shops were damaged with full funding from the Syrian government, in addition to spending more than SYP 35 billion for the restoration and rehabilitation of public facilities. He said that the government began making zoning plans a number of areas in the provinces as models for reconstruction projects in the next stage, adding that preparations are under way for a comprehensive project to restore life to the Old City in Homs in cooperation with a number of international organizations. In turn, Swing said that his visit to Syria aims at observing the work of the Higher Committee for Relief, as well as assessing the needs on the ground, and discussing mechanisms for enhancing cooperation between the Committee and the IOM.