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Syria's Law 10… Demographic Change at Home, Concerns in Neighboring Countries

Syria's Law 10… Demographic Change at Home, Concerns in Neighboring Countries

Sunday, 27 May, 2018 - 09:15
A Syrian army soldier walks past the rubble of damaged buildings in al-Hajar al-Aswad, Syria May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
London, Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat
A new law allowing the Syrian regime to redevelop areas devastated by war has alarmed refugees and the countries that host them, prompting fears that people will lose their property and be less likely to return home, Reuters reported.

The terms of “Law 10” could make it difficult for refugees to prove property ownership, and in turn discourage some from returning.

Seven years into the war that has killed half a million people, the law signals the regime's intention to rebuild areas of Syria where the rebellion has been defeated even though large parts of the country remain outside its control.

The legislation came into effect in April as regime forces were on the brink of crushing the last insurgent enclaves near Damascus, consolidating Bashar al-Assad’s grip over nearly all of western Syria.

It allows people to prove they own property in the areas chosen for redevelopment and to claim compensation. However, aid groups say the chaos of war means few will be able to do so in the time specified. The law has yet to be applied.

The inability of the refugees to practically present what proves their possession (of their properties) during the given time limit might lead to them losing their properties and their sense of national identity.

This would deprive them of one of the main incentives for their return to Syria, said Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, whose country hosts more than a million Syrian refugees.

Hariri said the law “tells thousands of Syrian families to stay in Lebanon” by threatening them with property confiscation.

People forced to flee their homes - more than half the prewar population - will find it hard to make such claims, aid groups say.

Many refugees now face a major problem: whether to return home, even if they think it may be unsafe, and claim their property rights in person, or risk losing them along with a big incentive to go back to Syria in future.

“If it is applied to areas once held by the opposition from which the residents have been displaced or where land registries have been destroyed, it will in effect prevent the return of refugees,” said a briefing note circulated to EU states at a recent high-level meeting.

Assad said the law has been misinterpreted in order to inflame Western public opinion against his government. He told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini that the law “is not about dispossessing anyone”.

“You cannot, I mean even if he’s a terrorist, let’s say, if you want to dispossess someone, you need a verdict by the judicial system,” he said.

Assad’s opponents already accuse him of engineering “demographic change” by driving rebels and their families out of Syria’s cities, and say the law confiscates property and homes of the displaced.

Amnesty International has said it effectively deprives thousands of people of their homes and land.

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