Four dead in Syrian displacement camp under siege by the Assad regime

The al Rukban displacement camp has been under siege by the Assad regime since October 2017. Twenty-five days ago, the regime completely restricted food supplies into the camp, which lies on the Syrian-Jordanian border in southeast Syria.

The 45,000 people there, the majority women and children, lack access to food, water and medicine. Cut off from international aid, the nearest medical facility is a UN-run clinic on the Jordanian side of the border that is often closed. Two weeks ago, two children died in the camp due to lack of medical supplies while a 20-year-old woman died last week from extreme malnutrition.

A teacher who lives in the camp and asked to remain anonymous described daily life, where people must pay for smuggled goods or go without. “For over a year we have been without UN food aid,” he says. “Many families just have one meal a day or one meal every two days, usually bread and rice, if they can find it.

“There is no hospital, no doctors work inside the camp. We only have a few nurses who live in the camp and provide medical assistance. Medicine is very expensive as it comes via smuggling routes. Where is the international community? Where is the United Nations? We need a safe route to the north of Syria, protected from attack. Al Rukban is a camp of death, there is no future and there is no reason to stay alive.”

The people of al Rukban are effectively trapped in the area, which is a demilitarised zone near to a United States military base. Unable to enter Jordan and unwilling to risk their lives by leaving the zone, they are at the mercies of the Assad regime. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the regime is blockading the camp because a rebel group allegedly failed to leave the settlement. Residents say the regime is trying to push them into reconciliation and to force the men to join its military.

A UN aid convoy is due to reach al Rukban on Thursday but there is no long-term plan in place to help residents. Local activists have set up a campaign to raise awareness of conditions called the Triangle of Death, so named as al Rukban is near where the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi borders meet. They warn that as winter approaches, more people could die in the besieged camp.

“The situation in al Rukban is unimaginable and cannot be allowed to continue,” says Laila Kiki, Executive Director of the Syria Campaign. “Sufficient aid for all residents must be allowed into the camp but residents’ demands for safe passage out of the area must be listened to. They cannot be expected to remain in al Rukban.”

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