The Yarmouk Camp of Damascus governorate-2015 (Hadf News website)
Activists have called on the international community and concerned legal bodies to pressurize the Syrian government to withdraw the new plan issued by Damascus Governorate to reconstruct Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees, in Damascus.
Lawyers and human rights activists said all attempts to alter the demographic character of a region by means of displacement and forced deportation is a war crime under the Four Geneva Conventions and a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
They added that the plan amounts to a crime and called for serious international moves to push for imposing sanctions on parties, companies, and individuals involved in the execution of the plan.
A recent report issued by the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) under the title “Yarmouk Camp: What’s Behind the New Reconstruction Plan” has spotlighted the projected impact of the new master plan issued by Damascus Governorate on June 06, 2020 to reconstruct Yarmouk Camp.
The report warns that the new plan violates the residents’ ownership rights and swells up over 50% of old buildings and property owned by civilians. No compensations, except for small shares, are, however, proposed in the plan.
The reconstruction plan will also result in a removal of the camp’s demographic character. No more than 40% of the residents will be allowed to return to their homes in mildly damaged areas. Several families will not be able to prove property ownership due to such laws and regulations as Law 10, which allows the Syrian government to designate zones for redevelopment. The situation is even more complicated for those who lost their documents in the warfare as well as those currently sheltered abroad.
Palestinian refugees and human rights groups continue to voice their firm rejection of the new reconstruction plan for Yarmouk Camp, which has been subjected to massive destruction in the bloody conflict.
Activists said the new plan will remarkably change the demographic and architectural identity of the camp. Several buildings and facilities will be removed, which will lead to a mass displacement of refugee families and a further deterioration of their humanitarian condition.
It is believed that in case the plan is implemented, over half of the residents will not be able to return to their houses which they have abandoned in the bloody warfare.
UN data indicates that before the eruption of the conflict in 2011, Yarmouk was home to approximately 160,000 Palestine refugees, making it the largest Palestine refugee community in Syria. Located eight kilometers from Damascus, it is one of three unofficial camps in Syria.
In April 2015, armed opposition groups captured over 60 per cent of the camp, containing over 90 per cent of the remaining civilian population. This not only made relief institutions unable to carry out any distributions inside Yarmouk but also displaced most of the remaining 18,000 Palestine refugees and other civilians to the neighboring areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham (YBB).
Almost all the remaining Palestine refugees left during the final government offensive for Yarmouk in April-May 2018, after which the government retook control of the camp.