Syrian refugees want to go home but they fear persecution

Displaced people surveyed at Rukban camp were worried about lack of security, UN official says

epa07142941 A handout photo made available by Syrian Arabic Red Crescent (SARC) showing displaced Syrians gather as SARC personnel conduct a vaccination campaign to immunize children against measles, polio and hepatitis at al-Rukban Camp near the Jordanian border, south-east Syria, 05 November 2018. According to the UN, an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to 50,000 people in need at Rukban camp in south-east Syria started on 04 November and is expected to take up to four days, the first of kind since the last UN delivery in January 2018, delivered through Jordan.  EPA/SARC HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

More than nine of every 10 Syrians living in the Rukban refugee camp want to go home but all fear detention, forced conscription or other infringements of their rights or security, a UN survey shows.

Reena Ghelani, a director at the UN's humanitarian affairs and emergency relief office, told the Security Council that 41,000 civilians at the camp lack the confidence to leave, despite dire conditions there.

“All of those consulted, regardless of their profile or tribal affiliation, have concerns related to the situation at the destination,” Ms Ghelani said on Tuesday.

She said people were worried about having the right papers when they returned and much worse outcomes, even in their home areas.

Ms Ghelani said their fears included "access to their property and concerns related to their safety and security, particularly the fear of detention and military conscription".

She said they wanted information and guarantees on all of those issues.

The survey was conducted during a long-delayed delivery of aid to Rukban this month.

Over 10 days, 133 trucks reached the camp and distributed much-needed supplies, although Ms Ghelani said there was only enough food to last a month.

About 95 per cent of those who spoke to UN officials said they wanted to leave the camp and 83 per cent wanted to return to their home area.

US representative to the UN Jonathan Cohen welcomed the aid delivery but spoke of increased shelling in Idlib, where many more refugees are heading nearer the border with Turkey.

The delivery of aid followed long negotiations between the UN, the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and Russian officials.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it was not clear if and when another convoy could reach Rukban.

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