From Cordoning To Dismantling, Russia About To Close Al-Rukban Camps’ File

Internally displaced Syrians in the al-Rukban camp, on the Syrian border with Jordan, during the distribution of UN aids – September 6, 2019 (Badia 24)

Internally displaced Syrians in the al-Rukban camp, on the Syrian border with Jordan, during the distribution of UN aids – September 6, 2019 (Badia 24)


Russia is determined on dismantling the al-Rukban Camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border and relocating its residents to areas held by the Syrian regime, coercing the displaced who have sought a place of refuge in the desert area into accepting an ‘option,’ which the United Nations is made a cover of.  

The camp dismantling and IDP relocation plan is part of the efforts aiming at rehabilitating the Syrian regime and bringing those out of control back to its grasp, regardless of the threats posed against their lives and amidst accusations of US identification with the plan and its implementation under humanitarian slogans.

The al-Rukban camp is located in a desert area, near the Syrian-Jordanian borders, enduring a suffocating siege since last February. The camp is run by the opposition factions that the US-led coalition backs, making the neighboring area of the al-Tanf into its major military base in Syria.


Dismantling the camp once for all

On Friday, September 27, Russia announced the start of dismantling al-Rukban Camp, designated to internally displaced Syrians, under a plan declared earlier on, with the aim at evacuating the camps’ residents.

In a report, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti said that the dismantling of the camp and evacuating its population will start Friday, September 27, afternoon, adding that it might take a whole month to totally remove the camp.

On September 18, the Russian Coordination Office had set up duration for the evacuation of the camp’s residents, which is to start on September 27, within the frame of the plan aiming at dismantling the camp and returning the IDPs it is housing to the Syrian regime-held areas.

The RIA Novosti also quoted the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Center, Maj. Gen. Andrei Bakin, as saying that the evacuation of the al-Rukban camp is to be conducted under the auspice of the United Nations (UN) and the Syrian Red Crescent (SRC).

He added that the IDPs are to be evacuated in three batches over 30 days, each consisting of 3500 persons, who will be transported to housing centers in the beginning.


UN adopts Russia’s position

While Russia persists on dismantling the camp and returning the IDPs it incubates to the regime-controlled areas for months, UN delegates entered the area, conducting polls as to fathom the residents’ wishes, are they willing to stay or they opted for leaving, and distributed humanitarian aids to the IDPs.

Having obtained the consent of the US-led coalition, the UN delegations visited the camp in the company of the SRC within a plan signed late in August, providing for finding the people’s opinion about staying or leaving, making for the first phase. The second phase of the plan, however, was started in the past days, where humanitarian aid and food baskets were presented to the camp’s people.

The General and Political Committee of the camp casted doubt on the UN’s  approach to the destiny of the al-Rukban’s IDPs, accusing the organization’s offices in Damascus of identification with the Syrian-Russian plan through imposing pressure on the camps’ residents as to drive them to the areas held by the regime instead of staying in the camp.

The Committee’s spokesperson, Shukri Shihab, said that the UN’s delegation along with a group of human rights activists have in the past tow days pressured the IDPs to leave the camp, urging their concern over the near entry of the regime into the area, cutting the aid provided and the danger engulfing their lives.

“The UN delegation handled the al-Rukban Camp’s affair unseemly. We refused to deal with or meeting it. In a statement we made to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, we accused the Damascus office of lacking impartiality,” Shihab told Enab Baladi.


Committee acts

On September 27, following the declaration of dismantling the al-Rukban Camp, the Political Committee posted a statement on Facebook, declaring withdrawal and refusal of meeting any UN delegation, accusing the delegation of the attempt at closing the camp and imposing pressure on the displaced instead of offering them humanitarian aid.

The statement was backed by another, addressing the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, with an objection against the UN delegation’s visit to the al-Rukban camp, pointing out to the reduced number of food baskets, repeated delay of aid distribution date, and the delegation’s focused effort on convincing the camp’s residents of leaving the area instead of saying there.

The UN, according to Shihab, was supposed to evacuate about 500 people from the camp to the areas held by the Syrian regime, while 11 thousand persons, who refused the move, are to stay in the camp.

The US-led coalition, running the area, did not comment on the latest plan, despite its repeated statements on its abstinence from interfering with the decision of the people wishing to leave the area. Shihab, for his part, quoted the center of the US-led coalition and the Revolutionary Commando Army, as saying that they did not hamper in any way the entry of the UN delegation nor did they meddle in its affairs.

UN statistics, published on September 25, point out that more than 18 thousand persons have left the al-Rukban camp between March 24 and September 3, most of whom returned to the towns and villages in southern Homs.


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