Despite the importance of understanding how refugee crises end, little is known about when and why refugees return home. We study the drivers of refugees’ decision-making using original observational and experimental data from a representative sample of 3,003 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We ﬁnd that conditions in a refugee’s home country are the primary drivers of return intentions. Refugees’ decisions are inﬂuenced primarily by safety and security in their place of origin, their economic prospects, the availability of public services, and their personal networks. Conﬁdence in information is also important, as several drivers of return only impact intentions among people who have high conﬁdence in their information. By contrast, the conditions in refugee–hosting countries—so-called “push” factors—play a much smaller role. Even in the face of hostility and poor living conditions, refugees are unlikely to return unless the situation at home improves signiﬁcantly
As of September 2020, the Syrian government had retaken control of the majority of Syria, leading to speculation about the end of the country’s civil war and sparking debates both within the region and beyond about whether Syrian refugees will return. While some regional governments have begun to take active steps to encourage such return, many in the international community believe that conditions in Syria remain unsuitable for return. Still, some have started to consider steps to aid refugees with going back.
Absent in these discussions though is the voice of Syrian refugees. Do refugees want to go back to Syria? And if so, when and how? What are the conditions that predict the return of refugees? With support from IPA’s Peace & Recovery Program, researchers from the Immigration Policy Lab (IPL) conducted a representative survey of 3,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon from August-October 2019 to learn about their return intentions.