Syrian regime wants Palestinian refugees back in Yarmouk

The once-busy district is now a ghost town piled with rubble and mangled steel rods. (AFP)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Syrian regime wants Palestinian refugees back in Yarmouk

  • The Syrian regime and allied forces retook the neighborhood in May from Daesh
  • Five months on, only a few residents have managed to return

BEIRUT: The Syrian regime has created a plan for the return of Palestinians to the war-ravaged Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus, the deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.

In an interview with Beirut-based broadcaster Al-Mayadeen, Faisal Al-Meqdad said there was a “plan for the return of all refugees to the camp,” home to some 160,000 Palestinians before Syria’s war broke out in 2011.

He did not specify how or when people would start returning.

The Syrian regime and allied forces retook the neighborhood in May from Daesh, pushing the militants out of their only bastion in the capital.

“Efforts are being made to clear (the camp) of mines left by... Daesh,” said Meqdad.

Founded in 1957 with tents for Palestinians who fled or were ousted from their homes with the establishment of Israel, Yarmouk grew into a bustling neighborhood.

In 2012, around 140,000 residents fled as clashes raged.

Those who stayed faced severe shortages of food and medicine under a withering years-long regime siege.

Daesh terrorists entered the area in 2015, bringing further suffering to remaining residents until being forced out in May.

Five months on, only a few residents have managed to return.

Meqdad said Damascus wanted to dispel any “rumors” that Palestinians had been displaced.

The once-busy district is now a ghost town piled with rubble and mangled steel rods.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has said its 23 premises in the camp including 16 schools are damaged, but that it would not fix any unless the government officially allowed residents to return.

UN and Palestinian officials have criticized Damascus for not giving the go-ahead for reconstruction plans or officially allowing residents to return.

On Monday, Meqdad said the Syrian regime would not object to a “role for the Palestinian Authority or UNRWA in rebuilding the camp.”

More than 360,000 people have been killed since Syria’s multi-faceted war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.


Illegal immigration, refugees top Arab-EU Summit agenda

Updated 23 min 4 sec ago
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Illegal immigration, refugees top Arab-EU Summit agenda

  • Heads of state, officials from EU and Arab League member countries to attend summit today
  • Some 19.5 million people globally have been forced to flee their countries

CAIRO: Egypt on Sunday will host heads of state, government officials and representatives from EU and Arab League member countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Bahrain’s King Hamad.

Refugees and illegal immigration will top the agenda amid the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

Some 19.5 million people globally have been forced to flee their countries. According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), Syrians constitute the largest refugee population in Europe, followed by Eritreans then Afghans. 

According to unofficial statistics, Syrians are also the largest refugee population in the Arab world, followed by Yemenis, Libyans and Sudanese.

Hossam El-Khouli, secretary-general of the Egyptian Nation’s Future Party, said: “The EU … should call for the repatriation of refugees if conditions are appropriate.”

He said: “As for the right of asylum … a number of countries have granted asylum to criminals who have committed violent crimes against their own people and homelands.”

Summit participants intend to debate the necessity of combating this kind of migration, especially given its impact on the security and economy of many countries. 

Margaret Azer, an Egyptian lawmaker, said a country’s economic conditions are one of the main drivers of illegal immigration. 

“The decline of political conditions in several countries is (also) contributing to the rise in numbers of people seeking illegal immigration,” she told Arab News. 

“For example, we see that the biggest percentage of immigrants in Europe are from countries like Syria and Libya. The reason could also be religious or sectarian persecution, as is the case in Myanmar.”

Frontex President Fabrice Leggeri said although the number of migrants arriving in Europe dropped to 150,114 in 2018 compared to 204,750 in 2017, the agency continues to support border controls by providing more workers and technology.