US blocks evacuation convoys at Syria's Rukban camp - Russian MoD
The United States has refused to let bus convoys, set to evacuate refugees from the Rukban camp, enter the US-controlled zone in Syria's At-Tanf, where the camp is located, Russian Defense Ministry Center for Syrian Reconciliation head, Lt. Gen. Sergei Solomatin, said Saturday, Trend reports with reference to Sputnik.
"The US side has rejected the demand of the joint Russia-Syria coordination center on refugee repatriation to allow the transport convoys enter the territory of the At-Tanf zone", Solomatin said at a news briefing.
The Rukban camp, which houses about 40,000 displaced people, is located in the southern part of Syria, close to Jordan. The area that became a refugee camp for Syrian residents 2014 is now in the US-controlled zone.
Alexander Marchenko, a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Friday that Washington was delaying the relocation of refugees from the Rukban camp, as it aspires to organize convoys with international humanitarian assistance that will enable the further existence of the camp.
US Department of State deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino on Friday called for for coordinated efforts on refugee evacuation.
"The United States supports the UN call for a durable solution for Rukban in line with protection standards and coordinated with all parties", Palladino tweeted on Friday. "Unilateral Russian initiatives, not coordinated with the UN and regional parties, do not meet these standards. The US and UN are ready for coordinated efforts on safe, voluntary, informed departures for those who wish to leave".
The Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation noted, however, that all information on the evacuation has been communicated only to Ayaki Ito, the UN Refugee Agency’s envoy to Syria.
The Rukban camp is located within the US-controlled zone surrounding the Pentagon's military base in Syria’s At-Tanf. In February, media reported - citing a UN survey - that most Syrian refugees from Rukban wanted to return to their homeland but feared detention and forced military conscription, among other issues, and sought information and guarantees of safety.
According to the Russian military, the total number of refugees living in the Rukban camp is estimated to be about 42,000. According to an earlier UN and Red Crescent survey, 85 percent of refugees in Rukban would like to return home.
In January, the World Health Organization (WHO) described those residing in the camp as "trapped," adding that they live "in deplorable conditions." Limited water supply, bitterly cold weather and poorly-functioning health care facilities contribute to the rise of diseases, including influenza, measles, tuberculosis and chronic respiratory diseases, the WHO stated.