Situation desperate for Yarmouk refugees

'The situation for thousands of Palestinians and Syrians in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria is critical. Norway has provided NOK 10 million to support the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Syria, in the hope that the organisation will gain access to the people in Yarmouk, who are in dire need of assistance,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

ISIL militants stormed the Yarmouk refugee camp last Wednesday. Some 18.000 refugees are still living in the camp. The Yarmouk camp has long been described as one of the worst places in Syria to live, due to the extremely dangerous security situation and the lack of food and water. Large parts of the camp are thought to be under ISIL's control, and Foreign Minister Brende has expressed concern that it will now be even harder for civilians in Yarmouk to survive.

'The situation in Yarmouk is extremely serious, and I am deeply concerned for the safety of Syrians and Palestinians in the camp. The refugees risk getting caught in the crossfire in clashes between ISIL, Palestinian and Syrian rebel groups and forces loyal to the regime,' Mr Brende said.

The UN Security Council is demanding humanitarian access to the Yarmouk refugee camp. 'I welcome the engagement of the Security Council. All parties must respect international rules and allow life-saving humanitarian assistance to get through. Securing humanitarian access to this extremely vulnerable group is a matter of urgency,' Mr Brende said.

According to UNRWA, 3500 children are still living in the camp in Yarmouk. The camp has been under blockade for long periods of time by both regime forces and rebel groups. According to the UN, Yarmouk has been one of the most difficult areas to gain humanitarian access to in Syria since the civil war began. The UN has reported that several people have died of starvation in the last few months.

At the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria held in Kuwait last week, Norway pledged to provide NOK 750 million in assistance to the victims of the Syrian crisis in 2015. Norway is a major donor to UNRWA and provides NOK 150 million annually for the organisation's work to support Palestine refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.