What’s keeping Syria’s Palestinian refugees from returning to camps?
Khaled Abdul-Majid, secretary of the Palestinian Revolution Factions Alliance in Syria, told Al-Monitor no one has returned yet because militants remaining in southern Damascus and nearby areas could infiltrate the camp again.
Abdul-Majid said negotiations are underway to remedy the situation. Meanwhile, the residents remain in the nearby town of Sahnaya on the outskirts of Damascus in shelters provided by the Syrian government and the UNRWA.
“We have established contact with the concerned state authorities to accelerate the process and have people immediately return,” he added.
However, Ayman Abu Hashim, general coordinator of the Free Palestinian Syrian Assembly, told Al-Monitor, “The regime forces controlling the Sabina refugee camp are the ones obstructing the return of refugees.”
“Families might return to the camp, but the regime forces are failing to take any serious steps in this regard,” Abu Hashim added.
As the Sabina camp awaits the return of its residents, Palestinian families have started to move in and out of the Khan al-Shih refugee camp southwest of Damascus, which had a population estimated at more than 19,000 in 2011, per the latest UNRWA statistics.
Ahmed al-Majdalani, envoy to Syria for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor that Khan al-Shih, unlike the Sabina camp, had not been fully deserted. The Syrian government reached an agreement back in November with the gunmen, who gradually left the camp heading toward Idlib and Daraa. Majdalani said forces of the PLO-affiliated Palestine Liberation Army and Syrian army are working on logistic arrangements aimed at restoring normal life there.