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01.03.2019 (12:15)

Joint Coordination Committee holds another session in Moscow to discuss repatriation of Syrian refugees

Report by Chief of the National Centre for State Defence Control Colonel General Mizintsev

Dear colleagues!

Today we hold another session of joint coordination committees of the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic.

A total of 1,655,000 Syrian citizens have already returned to their homes from abroad, with 1,279,000 of internally displaced persons and over 375,000 of refugees from abroad.

Over the past month, more than 30,000 Syrian citizens have returned to their homes, including more than 3,900 internally displaced persons and over 26,000 refugees from foreign countries.

Measures are being actively taken to rehabilitate social infrastructure of the country. In total, 5,180 houses, 141 medical institutions, 820 educational institutions, 129 water supply facilities, 161 bakeries, 600 electrical substations, and 14,260 industrial enterprises have been recovered and launched in various parts of the country.

The presented figures show a wide range of measures taken by the Syrian legitimate authorities to restore peaceful life throughout the territory under its control.

At the same time there is an increasingly constructive position is noted regarding the activities of the Syrian leadership by the world community and, above all, the United Nations and neighboring states - Lebanon and Jordan. They are involved in working with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to create decent conditions for repatriation of the Syrian refugees.

But despite the obvious success in recovering Syria, we are once again forced to return to the problem of the Rukban refugee camp.

Our concern about the catastrophic situation of refugees in Rukban is shared by international humanitarian organizations, above all, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Their representatives in early February during the second humanitarian convoy to the camp, conducted a survey of Rukban residents, the results of which show that the overwhelming number of Syrians - 95 percent - want to leave the area. At the same time, about 35,500 Syrians expressed a desire to return to the territory under government control. Including about 28,300 people intend to return to Homs province, to Deir-ez-Zor province - about 2,800, to Damascus and Hama provinces - 1,600, and to Aleppo province - about 1,200 people.

Due to the urgent need to quickly solve the problems of Rukban residents seized in the camp, since February 19, the Syrian side, in cooperation with the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring, have been ensuring the operation of the humanitarian corridor and the Jleb checkpoint for volantry evacuation of citizens back to their places of permanent residence.

However, despite the obvious desire of the Rukban residents to return home and the unprecedented measures taken by the Syrian authorities, we still do not see the flow of Syrian citizens returning to their homes. So why is this happening?

Nothing prevents the camp residents from returning back home, except for the tough opposition of the American side. The command of the US grouping in the al-Tanf zone continues to impede the exit, moreover it misleads refugees about the impossibility of leaving the camp, spreads rumors that in the territory controlled by the Syrian government they will find devastation, forcible conscription and persecution by the authorities.

US-controlled armed groups led by Magavir al-Saur are in fact forcibly detained refugees who want to leave the camp, demanding substantial sums in USD for leaving the camp. It is obvious that refugees do not have such money.

Representatives of the United Nations recognize that the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Rukban in the first half of February this year had a short-term positive effect and did not improve the general state of affairs.

Despite this, the American side continues to convince everybody of the need to deliver humanitarian convoys to the camp, and does not hesitate to exploit more than 40,000 refugees held in the al-Tanf zone, whom they allegedly protect from the repression of the so-called “Syrian regime”, and uses this as the main reason to substantiate their presence in this Syrian region.

It is obvious that this position of the United States only aggravates the already unbearable living conditions in the Rukban camp and leads to a humanitarian disaster.

As a result, the situation in the camp continues to deteriorate. There are cases of pediculosis, scabies, and even the fact of leprosy. People continue to die of exposure, unsanitary conditions, skin diseases, influenza, measles, tuberculosis, asthma, lack of basic medical care, food and fuel.

In these conditions, the Syrian government, with the assistance of the Russian Federation, took unprecedented measures to save its citizens.

In the places of permanent residence selected by the suffering residents of the Rukban camp, and these are al-Khaldiyyeh, al-Amare, Homs, Mahin, al-Qaryatayn, Palmyra, the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, there are all the necessary conditions for the reception and placement of Syrian citizens.

The total capacity of residential buildings significantly exceeds the need to accommodate Syrians who have expressed a desire to return from Rukban.

Places for refugees are equipped with everything necessary for a normal life. There is permanent supply of drinking water and food supplies.

Additional jobs have been created in these localities for the employment of Syrian returnees leaving the camp.

It is very important that the Syrian government guarantees full security to its citizens.

A simplified procedure has been established for recovering lost identity documents, as well as granting amnesty to the returning Syrian citizens. It has approved and introduced legal basis.

There are comfortable buses for the transportation of families of temporarily displaced persons in each locality chosen by the Rukban residents.

Realizing that further delay in resettlement of the camp leads to suffering and new victims among the held Syrian citizens, the Syrian government already at 02:00 pm sends six automobile columns from al-Amara, Homs, Mahin, Al-Qaryatayn, Palmyra and Damascus for the evacuation of refugees from the Rukban camp.

This information was submitted to the Director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic, Mr. Ayaki Ito.

In these conditions, the US command is obliged to ensure the safety of the passage of automobile columns through the illegally occupied zone of al-Tanf.

Representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexander Marchenko reports on repatriation of Syrian refugees to the Syrian Arab Republic.

Report of Marchenko, A.A., the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

The catastrophic situation of the residents in the Rukban camp remains at the focus of Russian diplomacy.

This issue is discussed at various levels with representatives of foreign countries, international and non-governmental organizations, including the International Committee of Red Cross, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Humanitarian Affairs.

The Russian position regarding the illegal US military presence in Syria in the 55-kilometer “security zone”, within which the camp is located, as well as its early resettlement, is well known to our international partners, and it is receiving increasing support. Approaches to addressing the Rukban's problem were once again outlined at a special meeting of the UN Security Council convened by the Russian side on February 26, as well as in Geneva during the regular meeting of the Humanitarian Task Force of the International Syria Support Group.

The only obstacle in resolving this issue is the United States, which delays resettlement of the camp, hoping to ensure its existence by convoys delivering the international humanitarian aid.

We hope that all members of the international community will act on the basis of the vital interests of the Syrians, not their own geopolitical interests and not only in relation to the Rukban camp.

The report is over.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

The head of the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring Lieutenant General Sergei Solomatin is going to report on implementation of plans for the withdrawal of refugees from the occupied zone of al-Tnaf, as well as the implementation of the tasks.

Report of Lieutenant General Sergei Solomatin.

The refugee checkpoints continue to operate in normal mode.

Over the past week 1,114 people have returned back to Syria from Lebanon via Jaydet Yabus, Zemrani, Qusayr, Talkalakh and al-Dabusiya CPs.

More than 5,987 people have passed via the Nasib CP from Jordan.

It is reported that 2.357 Syrians returned back to:

Eastern Ghouta (Damascus province) - 366 people.

1,721 people returned back to the places of permanent residence in Deir ez-Zor and Damascus provinces through the al-Salhiyah checkpoint.

The Syrian government jointly the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring ensures the operation of the humanitarian corridor and the Jleb checkpoint to evacuate Syrian citizens from the Rukban camp.

Bus convoys are ready to deliver the Rukban residents back to the places of permanent residence in the settlements of al-Khaldiyyeh, al-Amara, Palmyra, Mahin, Al-Qaryatayn, in the suburbs of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo are ready for the task.

Security at these checkpoints and escort to the locations is entrusted to the law enforcement agencies of the Syrian Arab Republic in cooperation with the military police of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Residents of the Rukban camp are informed about organisation of humanitarian convoys and procedure for meeting and movement at the CPs by SMS messages, voice messages transmitted with the use of loudspeakers at Jleb and al-Ghurab CPs.

The report is over.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

Thank you for your report.

I would like chief of the Jleb checkpoint Colonel I. Fedorov to report on the operation of the CP.

The Jleb checkpoint in Rif Damascus province began work on February 19 to meet, receive, allocate and provide the necessary assistance to internally displaced persons leaving Rukban camp.

The administration is made up of representatives of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, local authorities and security bodies of the Syrian Arab Republic. Such composition allows to timely and adequately response to changes in the situation, as well as to address suddenly emerging problems.

Its capacity is 1,250 people and 50 vehicles per day.

During operation of the checkpoint 270 Syrian citizens returned, 19 pieces of equipment were withdrawn through the checkpoint.

We have no issues of concern.

The report is over.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

Thank you for your report. As we see from our side, everything has been done to ensure an organized, voluntary and safe exit of Syrian citizens from the Rukban camp.

 I would like the head of the joint coordination headquarters of Syria Mr. Mutez Kattan to report on the activities carried out in the framework of the work on the return of Syrian citizens from the Rukban camp.

The Syrian government once again appeals to its citizens for their early repatriation.

There are all the necessary conditions in the areas of reception and accommodation of Syrian families. People are provided with drinking water, heating, water disposal, garbage removal and cleaning. The dwellings have the necessary furniture, dishes and household utensils, bedding and warm clothes.

Medical services are provided to citizens living in the districts. For this there are medical posts including mobile ones.

Moreover, there are employment opportunities for the returnees. A sufficient number of places in educational institutions have been prepared for the education of children.

All fears of persecution by the authorities are unfounded, do not trust rumors and propaganda. The Syrian government guarantees full security to its citizens.

In order to promptly restore the lost documents and settle the status of the returnees, the Migration and Passport Control Department of each province are working to resolve these issues in a simplified manner. It has approved and introduced legal basis.

On the route of the buses transporting citizens to destinations, security arrangements are organized.

At present we are fully prepared to receive refugees from the Rukban camp. And we plan to carry out this most important mission transparently in cooperation with representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

I would like Deputy Governor of Homs Province of the Syrian Arab Republic, Mr. Omer al-Khalil, to report on preparation of funds for the placement of temporarily displaced persons in the settlements of the country.

The administration of the Homs province is fully prepared to receive refugees and internally displaced persons in pre-war places of residence, including refugees from the Rukban camp, all necessary measures have been taken for this.

Thousands of temporary housing units have been built to accommodate Syrian families in Hisyah. First of all, it concerns those refugees whose homes were badly damaged or destroyed during armed clashes.

We will provide all residents with jobs and social support, schoolchildren will continue their education, for this purpose there are 1,289 schools in the province.

Cities of the province, which are chosen by residents of Rukban for permanent residence, including Homs, Mahin, Palmyra, Al-Qaryatayn, are ready to adequately meet every citizen. Everybody will be provided with food, medical care and other necessary assistance.

We know in what inhuman conditions there are Syrians who are, I dare say, in the Rukban death camp. And we will do everything so that our fellow citizens who have arrived from there forget all the horrors that they had to endure.

All municipal services are ready to receive returnees.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

Dear Mr. Al-Khalil, thank you for your informative report. I wish you success in solving the most important task of ensuring a decent life for Syrian citizens.

Dear colleagues! It is necessary to continue active and coordinated work on the early return of Syrian citizens and the revival of the country. The Syrian government's initiative to resolve the problems of the Rukban camp refugees must be supported at all levels.

Sergei Vitalievich, I ask you to ensure the smooth functioning of the Jleb checkpoints and to respond immediately to any problems and changes in the situation.

It is necessary to provide comprehensive assistance to our Syrian colleagues to ensure an organized meeting and escort convoys with refugees to their places of residence.

I appeal to the head of the Syrian Joint Coordination Headquarters.

The Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring are doing everything possible to inform the Syrian citizens in the US-occupied al-Tanf zone, but the UN pays attention to the low awareness of internally displaced persons about the real readiness of local administrations to accommodate arriving citizens. It is urgent to provide temporarily displaced persons with detailed presentation on the conditions of the forthcoming return, as well as providing them with guarantees of safety on the way and places of their choice of residence.

I ask you to bring this information to Syrian citizens through all available channels and, above all, to the residents of Rukban, as well as to the world community.

I turn to the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. Alexander Alexandrovich, I ask to provide all necessary assistance to Syrian colleagues through the Russian diplomatic department to inform international organizations and foreign governments about the measures being taken by the Syrian leadership to solve the humanitarian problem of the Rukban camp.

Dear colleagues! Today, we have an unprecedented humanitarian operation ahead of us.

I address to the head of the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring. Sergey Vitalyevich, I ask you, jointly with Syrian colleagues, to ensure an organized start of the movement of automobile columns from all provided settlements.

I turn to the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. Alexander Alexandrovich, I ask you immediately at all international platforms, first of all, in New York, Washington, Geneva and Amman to expand relevant work with American colleagues on the unhindered access of automobile humanitarian convoys to the illegally occupied zone of al-Tanf.

And once again I address to the head of the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and Refugee Migration Monitoring. Sergey Vitalyevich, I ask you to start full-scale work in all possible ways to notify Syrian citizens who are staying in the Rukban camp about the arrival of car columns for their evacuation to their chosen places of residence.

We appeal to the Command of the US group in the al-Tanf. You are fully responsible for the safe and unimpeded movement of car columns through the 55-kilometer zone you control.

It is high time you proved your ability not only in word, but in deed, to act for the good of the Syrians who found themselves in Rukban, the absolute majority of whom — about 40 thousand people — clearly spoke in favor of an immediate exit from the camp.

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