1,790 Palestinian refugees have fallen prey to enforced disappearance across the embattled Syrian territories.
As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to grip the Middle East and the world, a human rights monitor has called on the Syrian government to free all Palestinians and Syrians held behind prison bars.
The London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) said it is deeply concerned over an unabated outbreak of coronavirus in Syrian prisons, at a time when the deadly virus continues to claim the lives of thousands of people across the globe.
“Though the Syrian government reported only one case of coronavirus infection throughout the war-ravaged country, there are growing fears that a large outbreak in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria could be particularly catastrophic”, the group said in a statement.
AGPS also said it fears the coronavirus could spread quickly in jails and in overcrowded displacement camps, where neither hygiene kit nor medical equipment are accessible.
The human rights monitor called on the Syrian government to immediately release Palestinian detainees and provide those who tested positive for COVID-19 with the necessary medical treatment.
“The Syrian authorities and all concerned parties should also take precautionary measures and enhance captivity conditions to rein in a tragic propagation of the virus in jail,” it added.
The unabated shelling and deadly shootouts rocking the Syrian territories for the ninth-year running have claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinian refugees and resulted in the abduction, torture, displacement, and enforced disappearance of thousands more.
AGPS has documented the death of 4,039 Palestinian refugees in Syria, including women and children, since 2011, as a result of war-related incidents.
1,790 Palestinian refugees have fallen prey to enforced disappearance across the embattled Syrian territories. Hundreds of families continue to appeal for information over the condition and whereabouts of their missing or secretly detained relatives in Syria.
Over recent weeks, AGPS has warned of a projected outbreak of COVID-19 in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. “Though campaigns to help spread awareness among the camps’ residents have recently seen the day, limited access to running water, pharmacies and medical facilities mean displacement camps are more susceptible to the spread of the highly infectious virus”, it said. “Displacement camps set up in northern Syria are especially vulnerable as most hospitals and medical facilities have been bombed, rendering them out of order”.
A few days earlier, health officials in war-battered Syria have announced the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, as authorities in the country halted all public transportation in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
Health Minister Nizar Yazji told a news conference in the capital Damascus on Sunday that “necessary measures” had been taken to ensure that the patient, a 20-year-old woman who had come from abroad, was quarantined for 14 days.
Earlier, the government shut down schools, parks, restaurants and various public institutions, and called off army conscription.
Syria's healthcare system, among other infrastructure, has been ravaged by nine years of war.