UN sounds alarm over killings at Syrian camp for displaced people
The Al Hol camp, Syria’s largest site for refugees and displaced persons, has been the site of 12 killings since the beginning of the year, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today. The camp shelters 62,000 people who have fled violence and hardship from several countries, and operates under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces.
“We are seriously concerned over the deteriorating security situation in Al Hol camp in north-east Syria. Between 1 and 16 January, the UN has received reports of the murders of 12 Syrian and Iraqi camp residents, including one female Iraqi refugee. Another person was critically injured in a violent attack”, Jens Laerke, Spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today at a news briefing at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.
Most of the people in the camp are women and children who came to Al Hol seeking protection and humanitarian assistance. According to UNICEF, 94 per cent of the people in the camp are women and children, and 66 per cent are children.
“There is such a high proportion of children in the camp. [It is important] for those children to be treated as children, and that the world does what is in those children’s best interest”, OCHA’s Jens Laerke said. “I don’t think anybody can be in doubt that it’s not in their best interest to be stuck in this camp for years on end. So repatriation of not least particularly children would be most welcome”.
Included in the camp’s population are family members of fighters for the so-called Islamic State, as well as their supporters and victims. Almost half of the camp’s residents are Iraqi nationals, and 38 per cent are Syrian.
“This recent rise in violence among the camp population is not only, of course, a tragic loss of life, but it also jeopardizes the ability of the UN and humanitarian partners to continue to safely deliver critical humanitarian assistance and services to the residents,” Laerke said.
“The United Nations and humanitarian partners provide a range of assistance in Al Hol, including emergency and primary health care, water, shelter, food and hygiene distributions, and protection,” he added.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Imran Riza, and the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi, have issued a statement on the utmost importance of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of people at Al Hol. In their statement, the two UN officials stressed the "urgent need for durable solutions to be found for every person living in the camp".
“We are calling on those authorities who control the security in the camp to ensure the safety of the camp residents, first and foremost -- but also the humanitarian workers”, Laerke said.
Since the fall of Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate in March 2019, after a US-backed Kurdish offensive in eastern Syria, Kurdish authorities in the area have repeatedly demanded that the women and children in the camp be repatriated to their countries and areas of origin.