With no title deeds, Yarmouk camp’s displaced residents might not return home
A complex set of conditions, stipulated by the Damascus Provincial Directorate, awaits the Yarmouk refugee camp’s displaced residents, threatening to deny many of them access to their homes.
The Damascus Provincial Directorate on 26 November announced that it will accept only certified documents that prove residents’ ownership of property in the camp. It will thus turn down return applications filed by residents who have copies of the said documents, though these copies were deemed credible proof earlier this year, Shatat Press reported on November 28.
This condition could deprive many families of their right to return home, particularly those who lost their title deeds and other relevant documents over the course of the conflict.
Several Palestinian families referred to the concerned cadastral office in al-Hajar al-Aswad, Damascus, to obtain copies of primary documents, which they intended to certify. However, these families were shocked to know that their documents were lost in a fire incident, according to local media outlets.
Some people even believe that the Damascus Provincial Directorate is deliberately complicating the return conditions, while it has not been addressing the continuous looting in the camp or holding perpetrators of such abuses accountable.
Many Palestinian families were able to bring furniture to their homes on the Mahkama, Haifa, and al-Ourouba streets after they obtained necessary security approvals, eyewitnesses, told Action Group for Palestinians of Syria on 19 November.
Some residents expressed their fear of returning to their homes in the Yarmouk refugee camp because looting and thefts continue to occur, but the perpetrators are still at large.
Others, however, questioned the reasons for asking people to obtain security permits to return to their own homes, from which they were displaced due to the war.
The Damascus Provincial Directorate has started receiving return applications since 10 November and set forth three conditions, on 5 November, to allow people access to the camp. The applications go through a three-phase process.
In the first phase, residents submit requests; in the second, homes are inspected to assess their habitability; in the third, restoration permits are granted, according to the Director-General of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Anwar Abdul-Hadi, as quoted by the Russian Sputnik news agency.
Damascus Provincial Directorate “agreed to facilitate the return of the people displaced by terrorism to the Yarmouk refugee camp under three conditions, namely the safety of [civilian] structures, the availability of ownership proof, and the ability to obtain necessary permits,” a member of the directorate’s Executive Office, Samir Jazairli, said, as quoted by the pro-government al-Watan newspaper.
Response to the loss of ownership documents
On 8 October, Syrian civil organizations filed a complaint to three United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs to address the issue of civilians’ loss of essential legal documents during the war and the ensuing dire consequences.
The organizations demanded that concerned political parties, chiefly the UN and the Syrian government, take meaningful steps to resolve the difficulties encountered by Syrian displaced people due to this problem.
The loss of such documents robs owners of their housing, land, and property (HLP) rights and provokes further restrictions that hamper their freedom of movement and participation in political life, as well as the reception of humanitarian aid.
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