US delegation visits Al-Hol Camp; Residents of Al-Rukban Camp in Jordan refuse return to Syrian regime areas

AL-HOL, Syria / AL-RUKBAN, Jordan — The US State Department delegation visiting North and East Syria toured Al-Hol Refugee Camp to evaluate conditions in the camp and discussed with the camp administration ways to end the repeated security crises in the camp and return non-Syrians housed in the camp to their home countries. Meanwhile, the residents of Al-Rukban Camp rejected the statements of the Jordanian Foreign Minister about returning the camp’s residents to the Syrian interior.

The US Embassy in Syria stated on its Facebook page that an interagency delegation to Al-Hol Camp this weekend to discuss repatriation, assistance, and security needs in North and East Syria with local authorities and partners.

The embassy called on countries that have nationals in the camp to work with Washington to repatriate them, saying that it encourages all countries that have citizens in North and East Syria to work to find durable solutions.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the one hand and Iraq on the other discussed Al-Hol Camp, which houses more than 50,000 people of multiple nationalities distributed over more than 60 countries, with the US-led International Coalition.

On Monday, Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned of the tragic situation of children in Al-Hol Camp due to the lack of services, health infrastructure, and increased violence.

On the other side of the border with Jordan, refugees in Al-Rukban Camp expressed their displeasure at the press conference that brought together Russian Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi last week. The two reportedly discussed closing the camp and returning refugees to Syria, similar to the recent moves by Lebanon and Turkey to facilitate so-called “voluntary returns”.

The camp, which houses some 7,500 people, is located in the Al-Tanf area close to the American base there. It suffers from difficult conditions due to poor access to water, food, and healthcare. However, the residents rejected the idea of closing the camp. If they were to be relocated, they said, they demanded being transferred to the regions of North  and East Syria, a suggestion welcomed by the SDF who expressed their willingness to receive them.

The media office of the local council in Al-Rukban Camp published a message expressing the residents’ rejection of any decision that contradicts the will of the camp’s people, refusing to return to the areas controlled by the Syrian regime.

In a statement, they called for the opening of a safe road to North and East Syria and the exit of all the displaced from the camp or the continuous entry of humanitarian aid by the United Nations and UNICEF.