High-level UN delegation visits Syria's al-Hol camp
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A high-level UN delegation, including the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, accompanied by Iraq's National Security Service chief, visited northeast Syria's al-Hol camp on Sunday.
It's the first joint UN-Iraqi visit to the notorious camp.
On Saturday, Hennis-Plasschaert, who is also the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), met with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faysal Mikdad in Damascus to discuss the situation in al-Hol.
"Keeping people in restricted and poor conditions ultimately creates greater protection and security risks than taking them back in a controlled manner. Iraq is demonstrating that responsible repatriations are possible, by finding dignified solutions anchored in the principles of both accountability and reintegration," Hennis-Plasschaert said in a public statement, also received by Kurdistan 24.
"The best and only durable solution is to control the situation, managing returns swiftly and decisively, in the spirit of partnership, to prevent the legacy of yesterday's fight from fueling tomorrow's conflict," she added.
The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza, also underlined that al-Hol is no place for children.
"The steps taken by the Government of Iraq are extremely important in the path to solutions. Action by other Member States with citizens in the camp is urgently needed," he said.
UNAMI said a total of 2,500 Iraqis have been repatriated from the camp so far.
According to data from the UN, al-Hol is the largest camp for refugees and internally displaced people in Syria, hosting about 56,000 people. The majority of them are Syrians and Iraqis.
Last week, Iraqi authorities repatriated more than 152 Iraqi families from al-Hol.
"But as thousands of Iraqis (around 28,000 Iraqi citizens in Al-Hol alone) are still out there, the Iraqi authorities do realize that they cannot stop here," UNAMI said.
The UN said it commends Iraq for its courageous efforts, welcomes the hard work of Iraq's High Committee on Repatriations, and stands ready to continue providing the required post-return humanitarian and protection assistance.
"We urge all other governments (Al-Hol currently hosts 51 nationalities) to follow suit by repatriating their citizens, residents or associated persons - of course, with the appropriate measures of justice and accountability in line with international law, and community reintegration programmes for those found innocent of any crime," UNAMI concluded.