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Joint Coordination Centre holds another session on Syrian Refugees

Another meeting of the Joint Coordination Centre of the Defence Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian on repatriation of Syrian refugees took place in Moscow. It was chaired by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the National Centre for State Defence Control of the Russian Federation.

In the beginning, I would like to note that we managed to fulfill a number of tasks to intensify organized and massive repatriation of Syrian refugees.

We are working closely with international organisations, first of all with the Unites Nations, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in Geneva, and the Amman Monitoring Centre.

Last week our joint working group effectively operated in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, having made specific proposals on the terms and procedure of the repatriation.

The Russian Federation fully endorses basic principals of repatriation declared by the UN as well as terms established by the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, supported by most of the western countries:

voluntary repatriation;

security guarantees for returnees;

recognition of property rights for real estate;

non-prosecution status for returnees in Syria;

recognition of ID-documents issued abroad;

amnesty guarantee;

unimpeded access of humanitarian agencies to returnees.

The Syrian government reached a full understanding on these basic principals which a crucial for Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, some countries create obstacles to prevent Syrian from going back home. In most cases it is politicized under various pretexts.

This largely reflects desire to keep on receiving aid from international organisations and donor state allocated for Syrian refugees and use it as a low-paid labour force.

Some states have taken a wait-and-see attitude, and delay any facilitation repatriation of Syrian refugees.

Give the abovementioned information, our top-priority mission is to monitor all existing negative trends.

I take this opportunity to appeal to all actors in the process of repatriation: we are ready to respond impartially and in time to any information about cases when Syrian refugees are denied opportunity to return back home or forced to go to Syria. We also ask you to inform the duty shift about all cases of forced repatriation of Syrian refugees.

The key objectives of the Joint Coordination Centre are to:

facilitate contacts at all international levels;

provide assistance to all emering issues;

help Syrian government in addressing complicated social and political, economic and humanitarian issues Syria faced because of war.

The Syrian President fully endorsed establishment of the Joint Coordination Centre on the basis of the National Centre for State Defence Control as well as the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement in Damascus with branches at its CPs. Government of the Republic is deploying maritime and air ports and in the near future auxiliary land CPs.

Local authorities are working to create favorable conditions for returnees. Infrastructure projects aimed to stabilizes living conditions in liberated town are being implemented in Deir ez-Zor province. As a result of the work, some 600,000 people have already returned back to the province.

As we expect an increacing inflow of refugees, we extend infrastructure of the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement. Along with the existing officese of the Centre, there are another three branches opened: Salhiyah CP, Deir ez-Zor province, Baniyas seaport and Damascus international airport.

Today, another four CPs on the Syria-Lebanon border

At the same time it is to be stressed that Syria and its neighbours (Lebanon and Jordan) welcomed this initiative.

The Lebanon government supports repatriation of Syrian refugees. In order to ensure cooperation on repatriation, a joint committee is being established It shall be made up of representatives of parties concerned including the defence department and the Lebanese Red Cross.

The Foreign Minister of Jordan, Ayman Safadi has  clearly defined position of his country to continue cooperation with Syria on this issue.

Officials of Amman work to establish a joint operational headquarters, set up direct contacts with Syrian agencies in concern, using capabilities of the Amman Monitoring Centre which at the same time involves Russia, the USA and Jordan.

Leadership of Egypt has taken position of a mediator between the Syrian government and opposition to create favourable conditions for repatriation fo Syrian refugees. President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stressed that Russia and Egypt have the same position on this matter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the holding quadripartite summit on the situation in Syria on 7 September in Istanbul. It will be attended by the representatives of Russia, Germany, France and Turkey.

France's mediation efforts to restore stability in Syria are intensifying.

Report of Nikolay Burtsev, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Russian diplomatic organizations including permanent missions of Russia to the UN and EU are working to consolidate international efforts aimed to enable refugees to return back to their former places of residence.

Russian Embassy in Damascus was instructed to work jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic to develop a Handbook on Repatriation for Syrian refugees and distribute it in all Syrian embassies across the world and at CPs, and to coordinate proposals of the JCC Plan with the Syrian side, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation is concerned.

The Embassy of Russia in Ankara and Amman instructed to carry out the same work with the authorities in Turkey and Jordan to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, including the establishment of joint operational headquarters, headed by the Russian ambassadors, and regulations of their interaction with the Syrian authorities. Previously, this issue has already been discussed with the Lebanese party with which agreement was reached on the establishment of such institution as a joint Committee.

Embassy in Amman is also tasked to study the possibility of involving of the Jordan administration to the negotiations with the American side on the issue of humanitarian access to the Rukban camp on the border with Jordan and the transferring refugees to places of permanent residence.

Embassy in Ankara is to organize cooperation with the Turkish authorities on the issue of 24-hour regime of the Abu Al-Duhur CP.

Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey supervises the negotiation process aimed to enhance the return of refugees in Syria.

The Foreign Minister of Jordan, Ayman Safadi on July 26, emphasized that Jordan has encouraged the voluntary repatriation of Syrian refugees.

During the negotiations on the same day in Beirut, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that he supported the Russian initiative on refugees and ready to do everything to implement it.

Representatives of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, military and intelligence agencies (meetings with them were held on July 27) were not opposed to the repatriation of Syrian refugees. However, they cannot let people go back to Syria until they are sure that there are safe and dignified living conditions. The Russian initiative will be considered in the framework of interagency coordination.

The Turkish side has promised to inform us on the results.

Work continues in other areas.

On July 30th there was the 10th International meeting on Syria as it had been back in Astana. The negotiations were attended by representatives of guarantor states (Russia, Iran and Turkey), Syrian government, armed opposition, the UN and Jordan. The UNHCR was headed by Grainne O'Hara. On the first day there was a series of bilateral meetings. The Russian delegation held consultations with Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Syria, representatives of the Syrian government, Iran and trilateral meeting of guarantor-states. One of the main topics was the repatriation of refugees.

In the Russian mission to the United Nations Office in Geneva there was a meeting of Ambassador Gennady Mikhailovich Gatilov with Kelly Clements, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. UN representatives are ready to cooperate with us on the return of refugees, in particular, the Office intends to provide humanitarian assistance to returnees. However, practical measures are possible only amid some conditions, namely the need to stabilize the situation in Syria, recovery of rights to land and property, uninterrupted humanitarian access to Syrians returnees, informing returnees about the situation in Syria in general. When it come to coordination,  we suggested Russian Embassy in Jordan join the working group on refugee affairs which operates in Amman.

During the meeting the representative of the Russian Embassy in Cairo in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, they discussed the Russian initiative for promoting the return of Syrian refugees to Syria.

According to the Egyptian side, there are 129,737 Syrian refugees in the country. Given the unregistered number of Syrians, the total number of them reaches some 500,000 people.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry highly appreciated our initiative, welcomed any proposal aimed at addressing this problem, but provided that the departure of the Syrians should be voluntary and with guarantees to provide them with adequate security.

The representative of the Russian Embassy in Paris visited the French Foreign Ministry. During the meeting with French diplomats, he outlined the Russian initiative on repatriation of Syrian refugees to their homeland, invited the French side for cooperation in this problem. France is mainly focused on humanitarian of assistance

to northeast provinced beyond the control of Damascus. There was high appreciation of the Russian-French recent humanitarian action in the Eastern Ghouta.

During the meeting of Russian diplomats with their colleagues in the Foreign Ministry of Croatia, they were told that there are

530 Syrian refugees. The matter of cooperation with Russia

on repatriation of Syrian refugees is based on common position of the EU on this issue.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

I consider it is necessary to draw attention of via relevant diplomatic organisations and Russian mission to UN and EU, to importance of financial aid that should be forwarded directly to Syrian authorities and those responsible for infrastructure rehabilitation, as well as to Syrians willing to return back to Syria.

It is necessary to refocus financial flows from international organizations. Please, report on your proposals on August 3.

Report of Major General A. Tsygankov.

Over the past 24 hours, 348 refugees have returned to the Syrian Arab Republic from Lebanon. Nobody passed the Syria-Jordan border at the CPs over the past day.

According to the revised data, 348 people left Lebanon for Syria via the Zemrani, Jaydet-Yabus (Zabadani) and al-Dabusya (al-Aarida) on July 30, 2018 (47, 155 and 146 people respectively) – 104 women and 177 children.

Since July 18, 2018, in total 4,174 refugees have left Lebanon, with 2,893 people of them - via the Zemrani CP, Jaydet-Yabus  – 1,135 and al-Dabusiyah – 146 people.

In total 318 people have passed via the Nasib CP from Jordan.

Besides, militants of illegal armed formations with their families left the Southwest de-escalation zone (Ufaniya) to Qalaat al-Madiq, the Idlib de-escalation zone  by eight buses.

In total, 194 people (with 31 women and 65 children among them) have left the area.

In total since March 4, 2018 in total, 26,642 refugees (8,873 women and 12,373 children) left the Idlib de-escalation zone.

It is reported that:

106 Syrian returned back to their former homes:

Eastern Ghouta - 97 people (29 women and 48 children); in total - 73,917 people;

Khusham (Deir ez-Zor province),– 9 people, in total in Deir ez-Zor province – 10,730 people: 7,282 and 3,484 in Khusham and al-Tabiyah respectively;

Since June 27, 2018 in total 46,501 people have left the Southwest de-escalation zone with 7,418 of them accommodated in the Jebab, Rsas and Kum al-Wasiya refugee camps. Seventy refugees have left them over the past day. At present, there are 2,093 people present in these camps 1,329 people (419 women and 713 children).

They assessed the social infrastructure and facilities, housing fund, amount of construction materials available in the following towns:

Khusham, Al-Tabiyah (Deir ez-Zor province) and Karm al-Jazmati (Aleppo).

In order to ensure humanitarian assistance to Syrian and create favorable living conditions for returning refugees, it was decided to supply equipment ans assets to:

Khusham - in addition to early request, a dump truck, two welders, 

15 duraliminim windows, 22 cubic meters of cement, 87m of tubes (water and sewer), 26 cubic metres of lumbers to overhaul a house, a water pump station and a bakery;

Al-Tabiyah - in addition to early request, an excavator, 28 duraliminim windows, 23 cubic meters of cement, 183m of tubes (water and sewer), 26 cubic meters of lumber to overhaul a school, a water pump station and two dwellings;

Karm al-Jazmati - 5 cubic meters of cement, 30 cubic meters of lumber, 600kg of finishing materials (filler, lime), 3,000m of electric cables to restore a school.

Heads of local administrations prepared application to the Ministry of Public Works and housebuilding to received construction materials for recovering social infrastructure.

In total, in the Syrian Arab Republic:

89 medical and 214 educational organizations have been recovered;

267km of roads were recovered (1km  - over the past day);

197.5km of power line have been installed (0.5km - over the past day);

84 power substations, 71 water supply facilities and two fuel-energy complexes have been put into operation.

Over the past day there were two humanitarian actions to distribute 5,6 tons of food supplies.

People in Al-Muntar, Aleppo province, received 650 food sets with a total weight of 2.8 tons. 

In Al-Ghantu, Homs province, people received 2,8 tons of humanitarian cargo (650 food sets). In total, the Russian side has organised and carried out 1,879 humanitarian actions, delivering  2,861.36 tons of food supplies, the bare necessities and bottled water.

The SAA engineering units carry on the mine clearance operation in the settlements of Al-Mushrifah Talbiseh, Nasiri-Harabesi, Homs province. They have cleared up: 2 ha of the territory, 15 buildings and 1km of roads. They found and defused 40 explosive devices including 8 improvised explosive devices.

In Homs province they cleared up: 186ha of the territory, 570 buildings and 24km of roads. They found and defused 6,248 explosive devices including 2,038 improvised explosive devices. The report is over.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

I would like chief of the Office of the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement in Deir ez-Zor province Colonel Pervov to report on operation of the Salhiyah CP. Over to you.

Report by Colonel A. V. Pervov.

Today, the Salhiyah Office of the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement has been officially opened at 6a.m. Its capacity is 800 people and 10 vehicles per day.

There are offices deployed at checkpoints:

- reception;

- medical checkup;

-sanitary treatment;

- meals;

- recreation;

- registration of documents;

- clothing;

- material support (including funds);

- repatriation.

Documents are checked, relevant local administration has been informed on their arrival to give consent. People in need are provided with transport. The Syrian and Lebanese authorities are cooperating  to address emerging situations.

We have no issues of concern.

The report is over.

Thank you! Please ensure professional control over refugee inflow at the CP and provide 24-hour coordination on accomodation at the places of permanent residence.

I would like chief of the Office of the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement Captain Chebotarev to report on situation at Damascus international airport. Over to you.

Report by Captain R.N. Chebotarev

Today, the Office of the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement has been officially opened in Damascus international airport at 6a.m. Its capacity is 1,050 people per day.

There are offices deployed at checkpoints:

- reception;

- medical checkup;

-sanitary treatment;

- meals;

- recreation;

- registration of documents;

- clothing;

- material support (including funds);

- repatriation.

Documents are checked, relevant local administration has been informed on their arrival to give consent. People in need are provided with transport. The Syrian and Lebanese authorities are cooperating to address emerging situations.

We have no issues of concern.

The report is over.

Thank you! It is of paramount importance to get accurate data on those refugee returning by airlift. It is necessary to work through these issues through the appropriate service in order to retrieve this information.

I would like chief of the Baniyas Office of the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement Major Drozdovich to report on situation at the Baniyas CP.

Over to you.

Report by Captain V.E. Drozdovich.

Today, the  Baniyas Office of the Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement has been officially opened at 6a.m. Its capacity is 1,500 people and 50 vehicles per day. There are offices deployed at checkpoints:

- reception;

- medical checkup;

-sanitary treatment;

- meals;

- recreation;

- registration of documents;

- clothing;

- material support (including funds);

- repatriation.

Documents are checked, relevant local administration has been informed on their arrival to give consent. People in need are provided with transport. The Syrian and Lebanese authorities are cooperating to address emerging situations.

We have no issues of concern.

Report by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

Dear colleagues!

Ten thousands of Syrian refugees are there in IDP camps close to Syria-Jordan border.

According to the information that we have, they want to return back to Syria and ready to start working first of all in agriculture that does not require major rehabilitation of infrastructure. You must realize that delaying deadlines for repatriation of refugees creates favourable conditions for those who impede their voluntary return to their home, as well who spread of extremist ideology.

We should intensify contacts with the American side on early return of refugees from the Rukban camp.

Ministry of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation:

Nikolai Leonidovich, I appeal to the representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, please join us in this work. Employees of the Russian Embassy in Jordan to take an active part in meetings of the working group held at the monitoring centre in AMMAN to find a long-term solution for the refugee problem.

I ask you to closely cooperate with American side on al-Tanf area and to issue the repatriation of Syrian refugees through the checkpoint Palmyra, which is to be opened the first place, I speak about Zaza town.

I appeal to Joint Coordination Centre.

There is a huge amount of information from different sources. It is required a detailed analysis, balanced decisions, we have no right to make mistakes. It is extremely important. This work is very delicate; we have no right to make mistakes.

Dear colleagues!

From time to time, we receive the question of why the Russian Defence Ministry has taken an organizational role in the process of the repatriation of Syrian refugees to their homeland, and the answer is simple. At present, the Ministry Defence Ministry has the closest cooperation at all levels not only with the Syrian side, but also with all countries and organizations operating in the middle East. It is possible to solve the whole range of problems related to the repatriation of Syrian refugees to their places of permanent residence, avoiding cases of forced repatriation.

Undoubtedly, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the key element.

The main mission of the Joint Coordination Center amid this situation is to prevent forced repatriation and any slightest reason to accuse us of forcing people to return back home. But you have to be prepared for any kind of provocations.

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