Suffocated by Siege: The Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding in Rukban Camp

Suffocated by Siege: The Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding in Rukban Camp
Photo by Levi Meir Clancy via Unsplash


Talita Dielemans

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence

Rukban, a secluded region located in a remote area known as the "no man's land" between the borders of Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, has transformed into a refuge for Syrians since 2014. To this date, numerous Syrians remain trapped in this camp, living under siege. The Syrian government and Russian forces have encircled Rukban since 2019 and the delivery of United Nations assistance has been obstructed, leaving residents to rely on insufficient amounts of smuggled goods for survival. [1] The living conditions in the camp are extremely poor and worsening, there is a lack of proper educational facilities, and the housing in the camp is insufficient to withstand rain and windstorms. [2] In addition, with a severe shortage of essential food items and inadequate access to medical care, sanitation and clean water; the vulnerable inhabitants -the vast majority of whom are women and children- are living in desperate conditions. [3]

The situation in Syria's Rukban camp continues to deteriorate as the regime intensifies its siege. The international coalition forces overseeing the camp and its surrounding area have failed to provide any humanitarian aid, and the closure of the Jordanian border prevents any assistance from reaching the camp through Jordan. Previously, the food smuggled into Rukban served as the last lifeline for its 8,000 residents, who now find themselves deprived of essential supplies such as flour, rice and bulgur. [4] The absence of vital medical care has also taken a toll on the camp's inhabitants, exacerbated by the closure of a UNICEF clinic nearby in 2020, which has never reopened. Tragically, the lack of food and adequate healthcare has resulted in the deaths of several children and elderly people. [5] Given the unbearable humanitarian conditions, numerous families have made the difficult decision to leave the camp. However, those who attempt to return face arrest, torture, and forced disappearances, while young returnees are coerced into fighting against the opposition. [6] With the recent development of the Syrian government's readmission to the Arab League after a decade-long suspension, the already uncertain fate of the camp hangs in an increasingly precarious state.

Sources and further reading:

[1] Al Jazeera ‘Assad normalisation leaves Syrians in Rukban camp fearing future’ (28 May 2023) <​​> accessed 29 May 2023. 

[2] Ibid.

[3] United Nations ‘Largest joint UN humanitarian convoy of the war, reaches remote Syrian settlement’ (6 February 2019) <> accessed 29 May 2023.

[4] Middle East Monitor ‘Conditions continue to spiral in Syria’s Rukban camp as regime tightens siege’ (23 May 2022) <> accessed 28 May 2023.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Amnesty International, ‘UN-led return operation will put refugees at risk of abuses in Syria’ (10 September 2021) <> accessed 31 May 2023.