Activists demand transfer of Yarmouk camp’s administration to local committee

Two citizens walking through the rubble of the Yarmouk camp - 2018 (The Yarmouk Camp News)

Two citizens walking through the rubble of the Yarmouk camp - 2018 (The Yarmouk Camp News)

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Activists have criticized Damascus governorate over its incompetent administration of the Yarmouk camp area, reluctance to enhance vital services, and overlooking looting operations of residents’ properties. 

On 22 January, the Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) reported that activists from the Yarmouk camp called on Damascus governorate to suspend the work of its services directorate responsible for administering the affairs of the camp after it failed in doing so over the past two years.

Since the camp was placed under the authority of Damascus governorate in 2018, the governorate has made no effort to improve its deteriorating infrastructure or remove the rubble from the camps’ streets and roads, according to the activists. 

Damascus governorate disregarded the property rights of the Yarmouk camp’s former residents. It failed to stop the looting of civilians’ houses and properties or hold perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice, despite that the Syrian Constitution’s provisions protect and sanctify individual property rights, the activists complained. 

They said that Damascus governorate provided them with nothing but an announcement of a redevelopment plan to the Yarmouk camp. This plan increased the residents’ suffering and became an obstacle to their return to the camp.

They demanded that the local committee of the Syrian Ministry of Local Administration and Environment run the camp’s affairs as it did before after the services directorate of Damascus governorate failed to manage its tasks in the Yarmouk camp.

The Yarmouk camp’s reconstruction plan was preceded by the dissolution of the camp’s local committee under Decision No. 61 issued on 11 November 2018 by the former Prime Minister of the regime’s government, Imad Khamis. The decision stipulated the transfer of the committee’s jurisdiction to Damascus governorate, including its rights and commitments, and placing the committee workers under the supervision of Damascus governorate. 

The Minister of Local Administration and Environment, Hussein Makhlouf, justified the committee’s dissolving as to harness the great capabilities, staff, and expertise of Damascus governorate to rehabilitate the Yarmouk camp’s infrastructure, and thus facilitate the return of displaced persons to the camp, the Syrian Prime Ministry website reported on 11 November 2018.

Ongoing looting operations

Although Yarmouk camp’s residents’ are returning to their area, the looting and pillaging of public and private property continued to occur amid demands for the cessation of these operations and the provision of necessary infrastructure for the camp.

The AGPS cited activists and some residents confirming that regime elements had robbed the residents’ houses and looted the camp’s infrastructure, including electric cables and plastic pipes.

They said that vehicles loaded with looted goods were heading from the camp to Damascus on a daily basis under the sight of pro-regime Palestinian militias and groups from the Fourth Division and the Republican Guards Forces.

The former residents of the Yarmouk camp called on the Syrian regime government, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to work on securing proper infrastructure for the camp so they can return home as soon as possible.

The residents have repeatedly complained about the slow implementation of the governorate’s decision allowing the residents’ return and its conditions, which they described as incapacitating.

Conditions for property rehabilitation 

Previously, Damascus governorate started receiving applications to reconstruct properties and restore habitable houses in the Yarmouk camp. On 19 January, the AGPS quoted a lawyer from the camp residents, saying that former camp residents had submitted five reconstruction applications in the past two days. The lawyer pointed out that the applicants’ apartments in the block project, behind the al-Rahma Hospital and al-Jaouneh neighborhood, and opposite the General Company for Electricity have been surveyed by the governorate.  

The governorate required certain documents for reconstruction, including a copy of the personal ID card, the family booklet, a property ownership proof, a security permit, as well as an application for surveying and reconstructing the property. The governorate announced that its acceptance or rejection decision of the applications would be issued one week after the application’s submission date.

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