Yarmouk (unofficial camp*)

As of 1 January 2019                                                  

The Usdood school is one of 16 school buildings severely affected by the fighting in Yarmouk © 2018 UNRWA Photo
The Usdood school is one of 16 school buildings severely affected by the fighting in Yarmouk © 2018 UNRWA Photo
Before the eruption of the conflict in 2011, Yarmouk was home to approximately 160,000 Palestine refugees, making it the largest Palestine refugee community in Syria. Located eight kilometers from Damascus, it is one of three unofficial camps in Syria.

In December 2012, fierce clashes erupted in Yarmouk, causing numerous civilian casualties, severe damage to property and the displacement of thousands of Palestine refugees and Syrians. The camp was under siege from July 2013, drastically restricting the entry of commercial and humanitarian goods. In January 2014, UNRWA had access to Yarmouk and conducted direct distribution to besieged Palestine refugees. The Agency continued distribution until April 2015, when armed opposition groups captured over 60 per cent of the camp, containing over 90 per cent of the remaining civilian population. This not only made UNRWA unable to carry out any distributions inside Yarmouk but also displaced most of the remaining 18,000 Palestine refugees and other civilians to the neighbouring areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham (YBB).

Later in 2015, UNRWA managed to access the remaining 6,000 Palestine refugees who remained in Yarmouk and YBB through cross-border missions to Yalda and continued till May 2016 when access was blocked. Almost all the remaining Palestine refugees left during the final government offensive for Yarmouk in April-May 2018, after which the government retook control of the camp.

UNRWA was able to return to the camp to conduct a needs assessment in October 2018.  Of the 23 UNRWA premises in the camp and nearby Hajjar al Aswad, including 16 school buildings, all have been affected by the conflict.

Yarmouk was established in 1957. It occupies an area of 2.1 square kilometres to accommodate refugees who were scattering in mosques, schools and other public places. Over the years, the refugees improved their shelters and added more rooms to them. Before the conflict, the camp was crowded with cement block homes, and densely populated. Three main roads lined with shops and crammed with service taxis and microbuses ran through Yarmouk.

Now the camp is largely destroyed and contains just a few dozen families. These are mostly elderly Palestine refugees, who stayed throughout the siege and conflict. The Syrian government has indicated that Palestine refugees will be allowed to return to the camp in future.

UNRWA installations:
  • Three health centres – all completely destroyed
  • 16 school buildings – all need major repairs/rebuilding
  • One vocational training center – needs major repairs
  • One  educational development centre – needs major repairs
  • Two community centres – one needs major repairs, other to be completely rebuilt

*A number of so-called unofficial refugee camps were established over time by the host governments to provide accommodation for Palestine refugees. In all respects, refugees in official and unofficial camps have equal access to UNRWA services, except that UNRWA is not responsible for solid waste collection in the unofficial camps.

REFUGEE CAMPS IN Syria

We provide services in 12 Palestine refugee camps in Syria. UNRWA does not administer or police the camps, as this is the responsibility of the host authorities.