Visit to Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria
06 June 2022
On Sunday 5 June, a high-level UN delegation, accompanied by the Chief of Iraq’s National Security Service, visited Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria: a desolate, sprawling complex of tents in the scorching sun, and the forced home of tens of thousands of people for many years now. The delegation witnessed first-hand the dire conditions on the ground. This was just a glimpse of the immense challenges Al-Hol residents endure on a daily basis - despite the best efforts of humanitarian actors.
Many people, in particular children, never asked to be part of this desperate situation with no end in sight. However, 50 percent of Al-Hol’s total population (currently about 56,000 individuals) is under the age of 12. They find themselves deprived of their rights, vulnerable and marginalized. The already extremely precarious humanitarian and security conditions have deteriorated further in past months, making the risks associated with this slow-moving catastrophe ever clearer: a camp like Al-Hol fuels resentment and inspires terrorists, from breakout operations to large-scale attacks. If left unaddressed, the situation will inevitably impact the region and far beyond.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert: “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. 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.”
The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza: “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.”
So far, and with the latest transfer on 1 June, over 2,500 Iraqis have been repatriated. 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. The UN 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.