Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Tough Conditions Make It Hard for Yarmouk Residents to Return Home

Tough Conditions Make It Hard for Yarmouk Residents to Return Home

Saturday, 9 January, 2021 - 08:30
A general view showing the destruction in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital of Damascus, April 6, 2015. (AFP/STR)

Syrian authorities began issuing security approvals for a new batch of Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes in al-Yarmouk camp, given that they meet the required conditions.

A Palestinian resident of Yarmouk said she only wants to return to her home in the camp. She recalled her family's suffering in paying high rents and moving between houses.

The Palestinian woman, who was asked to review a security branch to study her request, complained that she did not know why her request was rejected.

“I want to return [to the camp] even if to set up a tent over the rubble of my house.”

Palestinian civil sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that a number of families have received approvals to return and they were provided with houses' unit numbers from the Military Security Unit in Damascus.

Palestinian refugees of the Yarmouk camp should submit their identification papers and officially certified property deeds to the Unit to obtain the security approval allowing them to reside in the camp.

Damascus Provincial Directorate announced that it is now only accepting certified title deeds as proof of ownership, while it used to recognize copies of these deeds earlier.

Residents of Yarmouk camp planning to return home said that the new conditions are complicated and “insuperable,” such as the acknowledgment of responsibility for the structural integrity of the dwelling, a pledge to remove rubble of the property within two months of receiving it, paying previous bills, and the undertaking to obtain an official license to restore the property.

The sources indicated that over 2,500 people applied to return to the camp when the governorate announced it was receiving requests for conditional return in November last year.

About 1,200 applications were accepted, while the rest were rejected because the houses are not suitable for residence.

Requests were then transferred to the Military Security Branch for security approvals after all conditions were met, with only 500 allowed to return.

Member of the Executive Office of the Damascus Provincial Directorate, Samir Jazaerli confirmed that 500 requests were approved out of the 1,200.

Jazaerli explained that the applications met the three requisites including structural safety, ownership proof, and the ability to obtain necessary security permits.

An additional 400 families returned to their homes in Yarmouk before the process officially started on November 10, he added.

The Yarmouk camp was established in 1957 about eight kilometers south of Damascus and it is the largest gathering of Palestinian refugees in the region.

Its population was estimated at more than 150,000 people in 2010, 112,550 of whom are registered refugees with UNRWA, and by the end of 2014, it dropped to only 20,000 residents.

After the emergence of ISIS in the camp, the remaining civilians left Yarmouk until the Syrian regime regained control in 2018 after which more than 70 percent returned.

As Syrian authorities began issuing a new batch of security approvals, the "Action Group for Palestinians of Syria” called upon shop owners in the camp to submit requests for their stores.

The Group pointed out that 400 families currently living in the Yarmouk camp suffer from a scarcity of basic services, especially that there are no shops in the camp or electricity.

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