Palestinian refugees from Yarmouk camp blackmailed in exchange for housing permission

The 30th Street in the Yarmouk camp (AFP)

The 30th Street in the Yarmouk camp (AFP)

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Palestinian refugees said they had been blackmailed by members of a committee assigned to assess the habitability condition of their houses in the Yarmouk camp.

The Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) reported on 31 January that a number of the camp’s former residents had to pay bribes to the committee to allow them to return to their habitable houses. 

Last January, Damascus governorate started receiving applications to reconstruct properties and restore habitable houses in the Yarmouk camp under three conditions: the availability of ownership proof, the structural safety of properties, and the ability to obtain necessary security permits.

A former resident of the camp informed the AGPS that the assessment committee staff members do not grant housing permits unless they are paid a certain amount of money.

Another Palestinian refugee said that she had to pay 30 thousand Syrian pounds (8.915 USD) as a bribe to obtain housing permission. 

Other owners of houses fit for habitation were denied a housing permit because they failed to pay the required sum to the committee’s control staff.

Damascus governorate demanded a set of documents for reconstructing houses in the camp, 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. 

It also required an assessment report from the Yarmouk camp municipality’s engineering staff, specifying the size and extent of damage and building materials needed for restoration.

The governorate clarified that the applications’ acceptance or rejection decision would be issued one week after the application’s submission date.

On 22 January, activists from the Yarmouk camp have criticized Damascus governorate over its incompetent administration of the camp, reluctance to enhance vital services, and overlooking looting operations of residents’ properties. 

The activists pointed out that since the camp was placed under Damascus governorate’s authority in 2018, the governorate has made no effort to improve its deteriorating infrastructure or remove the rubble from the camps’ streets and roads.

They demanded the local committee of the Syrian Ministry of Local Administration and Environment to 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.

On 26 December 2020, 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.

 

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