On February 27th, the interagency coordination headquarters of the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic released a statement claiming that the US is hindering the exit of civilians from the Rukhban camp.
“Since 19th of February 2019, the government of Syria, together with the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring, ensures the function of humanitarian corridor and the Jleb checkpoint for the exit of Syrian citizens from the Rukban camp.
This initiative is supported by the UN and the countries bordering Syria, first of all by Jordan. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has begun to develop a comprehensive Plan for evacuation of Syrian citizens from the Rukban camp.”
Meanwhile, armed groups controlled by the US, led by Mahavir as-Saura are detaining refugees trying to leave the camp and demand a large sum of money to allow exit, according to the statement.
“Women, children, the disabled people have no support. The level of violence, including sexual violence, continues to be at high level. Among the inhabitants of the camp there are eradicated in the world practice diseases, such as pediculosis and scabies. People continue to die of hypothermia, insanitary conditions, skin diseases, influenza, measles, tuberculosis, asthma, lack of basic medical care, food and fuel.
There have been cases of refugees falling into “food” slavery because of lack of money. The assistance provided by international organizations falls into the hands of militants and is unable to radically improve the situation.”
However, the US is attempting to shift responsibility to the Syrian and Russian sides and accuses them of blocking humanitarian aid for the refugees.
The US control of the al-Tanf zone interferes with the exit and also misleads refugees in thinking they cannot leave. According to the statement they also spread rumors that they would be in danger if they return on Syrian soil.
During the humanitarian convoy in early February 2019, representatives of the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent carried out a survey in the Rukhban camp.
The results were the following:
“95% of residents want to leave the camp, and 83% of respondents would like to return to their places of permanent residence, while 80% of them – to the territory under the control of the government- and only 3% – to areas beyond the control of the Syrian authorities, 17% – undecided.
The areas to which the Rukban camp residents have expressed a desire to return, named the Khalidiyeh (20 km southwest of Aleppo), al-Amara (7 km south of Aleppo), Tadmor (Palmyra), Mkhin (57 km southeast of Homs), al-Karyatein (70 km southeast of Homs), the suburbs of Damascus, Homs, Raqqa and Aleppo are ready for their receiving and accommodation. Places of medical examination, sanitary epidemiological treatment, food, rest, registration of documents and material support are deployed at these points.”
The statement also claimed that the Syrian and Russian sides are ready to transport these residents to their places of permanent residence. The Syrian government guarantees the security of temporarily displaced persons and a simplified procedure of documents recovery.
Finally, the statement concluded that on March 1st, the Syrian government, in coordination with Russia, will form additional humanitarian convoys for the voluntary and unhindered return of the Rukhban camp residents to their places of permanent residence.
“The entry of the columns into the illegally occupied by USA zone around al-Tanf for the evacuation of refugees from the Rukban camp will be carried out in coordination with the UN.
We strongly encourage the United States to influence controlled bandit formations and to create all conditions for the passage of these humanitarian convoys to the Rukban camp and the return of the Syrians to their homes.”
This is in continuation of a joint statement of February 16th that the humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of Syrians Rukban camp two checkpoints at Jleb and Jabal al-Ghurab were opened.
Finally, on February 26th, the UN Security Council held a meeting on the need of humanitarian aid in Syria.
Russian Ambassador the UN Vassily Nebenzia said that several areas were of concerns, especially ones occupied by US, which “are worsening the general situation in Rukban. International law requires the occupying Power, the United States, to ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered, if the occupied territory has inadequate supplies, and it must work with national authorities to ensure that proper health and medical services are provided, he said, pointing out that on 19 February, two evacuation corridors were established, with help from the Russian Federation.”
On February 27th, Russia inquired the UN to provide information about the fate of humanitarian cargo, delivered to the Rukban camp for Syrian refugees, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin told TASS.
“Recently, the second humanitarian cargo delivery to Rukban has taken place. We requested full information on how the mission proceeded, in what conditions the delivery has taken place, whether the aid has reached the intended recipients, whether there were cases of humanitarian cargo falling into wrong hands,” he said.