Iraq News

UN to 'facilitate' evacuations from Syria desert camp

The UN said Friday (August 30th) it will help evacuate civilians from an "abysmal" Syrian desert camp near the border with Jordan, after a mission last week determined who wanted to leave.

"We are ready to facilitate" evacuations from the al-Rukban camp, said Panos Moumtzis, the UN's Syria humanitarian chief.

"We want to make sure it happens in a voluntary way," he told AFP during an interview in Beirut, describing the situation in the settlement as "abysmal".

According to the UN official, around 12,700 people remain in the isolated al-Rukban camp near a base used by the international coalition fighting the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

The Syrian government and Russia said in February they had opened corridors out of the camp, calling on residents to leave.

More than half of the original population has left in the past months, the UN says.

The UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent sent a mission to the camp last week to determine how many people remained inside and who wanted to leave, the UN official said.

"A little bit more than a third of them want to leave," Moumtzis said.

"The vast majority want to go into government-held areas and some others want to go to the north," held by the opposition, he added.

Some 47% of surveyed camp residents said they wanted to stay, citing reasons including "security concerns" and "fear of detention".

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