Hundreds of refugees from the US-led coalition-controlled Rukban refugee camp bordering Jordan have traveled several hundred kilometers west to the Damascus suburbs seeking assistance from Syrian authorities.
Speaking to journalists, some of the refugees said the lack of humanitarian aid drove them to make the journey west. Students from a Damascus university are helping to organize the provision of food and shelter for the refugees.
"We thought we would be saved there [at the Rukban camp] but as a result nearly died of hunger. It turned out that there was nothing there; nothing at all," Muttrah Ramadan Houdour, one of the refugees, said. "Even the food and medicine we did have were brought to us by friends from Damascus, and we paid for it. We gave everything we had," she added.
The Rukban refugee camp is located in the Al-Tanf district in Homs province and surrounded by opposition militants. Tens of thousands of civilians fled to the area in 2014, hoping to cross into neighboring Jordan, when Daesh (ISIS)* began its assault into eastern Syria. Jordanian authorities did not let them into their territory, resulting in the creation of the Rukban camp.
An estimated 60,000 refugees are presently based at Rukban and the US-occupied al-Tanf military base. There have been numerous reports of militants creating problems for the refugees, from blocking them from leaving to preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid. The United Nations has described the situation at the camp a "humanitarian disaster." The US has been training Syrian opposition militia (some of them presumed to be ex-jihadists) at al-Tanf since 2016. Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly accused Washington of "spewing Daesh mobile groups" from the area and turning southern Syria into "a 100-kilometer 'black hole' on the Syrian-Jordanian state border."
Last week, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem slammed the continued US military presence in the region and called on America to withdraw. Last month, senior Syrian diplomat Bashar Jaafari called the US presence at al-Tanf and Rukban "pure aggression and occupation."
*A terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.