Russian and Syrian Joint Coordination Committees Urgent Statement on Plight of Rukban Refugees

by Joint Coordination Committees of the Russian Federation
and the Syrian Arab Republic
“On plight of the Rukban camp refugees”
April 22, 2019

It is the 1817th day as the Syrian citizens have been forcibly held in the Rukban refugee camp in the US-occupied Al-Tanf zone.

Today, the third joint coordination meeting on the closure of the Rukban camp was held. The session was attended by the heads of Russian and Syrian joint coordination committees, Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring, UN offices in Damascus: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Office, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as well as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Given the crucial role of the United States in disbanding the Rukban camp, we also sent an invitation to the US Embassy in Moscow to today’s coordination meeting. Unfortunately, the US officials refuse to attend this event of utmost importance.

At the same time, the meeting participants expressed their commitment to the Russian-Syrian initiative aimed at the soonest closure of the Rukban camp.

Russian and Syrian Joint Coordination Committees are ready for the joint work with the United Nations on evacuation of refugees from the camp, monitoring the situation inside it, as well as drawing up lists of refugees, who want to leave the camp.

Thanks to our joint work with the Syrian colleagues aimed at bringing the information to the world community about the plight of the Rukban camp inhabitants, the situation has broken free from deadlock.

Since March 23, in total 4,345 people have been evacuated from the camp, with over 2,362 of them accommodated in Homs province temporary shelters. The rest have already returned to the places of residence, which they had chosen.

Syrian government fulfills guarantees of voluntary, secure and dignified repatriation of Syrian citizens. All Syrians who left the Rukban camp were provided with medical assistance, the bare necessities and food. Issues concerning recovery of documents and employment are addressed promptly. Children started to go to school.

However, despite the measures taken to rescue the residents from the Rukban camp, it is clearly not enough. Syrian citizens are leaving the camp extremely slowly, and the humanitarian situation in the camp continues to worsen rapidly.

Over 40,000 refugees with about 80% of women and children are staying in terrifying conditions of unsanitary, deceases, and are suffering daily violence by the fighters.

The responsibility for the worst humanitarian situation in the camp lies fully with the command of the American troops in the al-Tanf zone who prevents Syrian bus convoys from getting to the Rukban camp in order to rescue their citizens.

US-controlled armed groups led by Magavir al-Saur with the direct support of the US troops take extra measures to forcibly keep refugees in Rukban camp. Militants formed the so-called local police and drew up a prohibition list for its inhabitants, and severe penalties for violating it.

The main tasks of the police are to identify and detain persons supporting the Syrian government. It is forbidden for the Rukban inhabitants to leave the camp through any exits except the central one. On the Rukban territory there is a traffic ban so that any movement is to be coordinated with the fighters, including the transportation of commercial goods.

We urge the American side to stop the destructive activities of controlled gangs in the Rukban and contribute to speed up the process of bringing Syrian citizens to their places of residence.

The USA should seize up its flagrant interference with the internal affairs of the sovereign state of Syria and stop delaying settlement of the Rukban problem. It is also necessary to open unhindered access for bus convoys to the camp in order to save the Syrian citizens and close the illegally occupied 55-km zone round Al-Tanf.

We count on a consistent and principled position of the UN in assessing the US actions in the region and influencing the American leadership for the soonest closure of the Rukban camp and the 55-km Al-Tanf zone.

As a result of the destructive influence of the American side, a number of Western countries under the pretext of complete lack of conditions in the Syrian Arab Republic for receiving and accommodating the returnees refuse to facilitate repatriation process and intentionally politicize distribution of funds allocated for Syria.

We call upon the United Nations to influence the international community in order to lift the anti-Syrian sanctions and unlock the financial accounts of the Syrian government abroad. This will be the effective help to enhance the peaceful life process in Syria, including the creation of decent conditions for Syrian returnees from the Rukban camp.

Head of the Russian Joint Coordination Committee on Repatriation of Syrian Refugees – Head of National Centre for State Defence Control of the Russian Federation

M. Mizintsev

Head of the Syrian Joint Coordination Committee on Repatriation of Syrian Refugees – Minister of Local Administration of the Syrian Arab Republic

H. Makhlouf