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Syria: Yarmouk Camp residents given one month to clear destroyed homes

Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria in 2014 [Laila Ben Allal/Middle East Monitor]
Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. [Laila Ben Allal/Middle East Monitor]

The Syrian government has given the residents of the Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees, whose homes have been partially or completely destroyed, one month to clear them or they will be removed under the penalty of a fine.

This came in an announcement issued by the Damascus Governorate in the official Al-Baath newspaper, on Monday, 23 January.

The announcement called on "the resident and property owners in the Yarmouk area, to visit the Yarmouk Services Department in order to remove their fallen buildings or those that are partially or completely inhabitable, in accordance with an announcement published in the Official Gazette and websites, within one month" said the Palestinian Refugee Portal.

The announcement, signed by the Damascus Governorate, confirmed that if the houses are not removed within a month, they will be removed and cleared, and the owners will be fined.

The announcement came at a time when the people of the Yarmouk camp are calling for decisions to complete the camp's cleaning operations and remove the rubble, including the areas of Al-Urouba and Al-Taqaddum, and the neighbourhoods that were not included in the operations that took place on Yarmouk and Palestine Streets, as well as some of the camp's neighbourhoods in September 2021.

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The announcement raised the concerns of many residents, amid demands for clarifications by the concerned authorities and the Palestinian factions that work with the Syrian government and its security services in the camp, about the content of the announcement and what it means.

One of the refugees described the announcement to the Palestinian Refugee Portal, on condition of anonymity, as sudden and incomprehensible, and wondered whether the buildings and houses will be removed for the purpose of rebuilding them and whether this would be at the expense of the homeowners themselves.

The displaced refugee in the Yalda area, who owns a house in the Al-Urouba neighbourhood of the camp, demanded clarifications about what the announcement means, saying, "It seems that the Governorate wants to clean the camp at the expense of the people after its destruction, without giving us any idea of the fate of the neighbourhoods that were not included in the previous cleaning operations."

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The announcement raised renewed fears that the approval or returns and repairs for some service structures that are taking place recently, as well as previous clean-up operations launched by the Rubble Removal Committee are limited only to the areas classified by the Damascus Governorate as "least damaged" according to the organisational chart that was issued in July 2020, that met widespread objections at the time.

The plan works in three phases and includes a comprehensive reorganisation of the most affected area, in addition to serving the least damaged areas, thus contributing to the return of more than 40 per cent of the people only, as announced by the Damascus Governorate at the time.

The air and missile strikes in 2018 turned the Yarmouk camp into the seventh largest point of destruction in Syria during the war, according to a survey conducted by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in 2019.

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