HLP Issues in Informal Settlements and Collective Centres in Northern Syria

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Introduction and Methodology

The purpose of this Guidance Note (“guidance”) is to increase knowledge and understanding of housing, land and property (HLP) issues in informal camps/settlements1 and collective centres in the northern part of the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), with an emphasis on the situation in areas outside of Government control2 in the Deir Hassan Cluster (Idleb Governorate) and Azaz sub-district (Aleppo Governorate).3 The majority of existing material regarding informal settlements and collective centres reference the need to ensure that housing, land and property issues are addressed, but offer little guidance on how to do so. In part, this is because HLP issues are quite context specific, and it is thus difficult to offer blanket guidance on how to handle them. What guidance there is, is also targeted towards planned (“formal”) camps, with little written frameworks on how to cope with HLP challenges in self-settled or informal camps and collective centres that are more prevalent in Syria. This guidance therefore aims to offer practical information and tools to humanitarian practitioners and others working with IDPs in Northern Syria, on how to identify and address HLP issues during the course of humanitarian programming, in particular as it relates to HLP rights for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in need of shelter assistance.

This guidance also seeks to provide more clarity regarding: ownership and usage rights over land used for camps /informal settlements and collective centres; rental or other arrangements between owners, de facto local authorities and camp managers, and potential gatekeepers to HLP and other services in camps and collective centres. The guidance can be used by a broad range of humanitarian and other actors delivering assistance and services in northern Syria, as they navigate the existing complex HLP arrangements and the implications they have for IDPs’ security of tenure and other rights and protections.

The information contained within this guidance is based primarily on information gathered through 22 interviews with Syrian and international humanitarian actors in Gaziantep, Turkey from 28 July to 12 August 2016, and relies heavily on interviews with people who work directly inside Syria; including members of 10 local NGOs (either Syrian or Turkish), 7 international NGOs, and relevant branches of the United Nations agencies. Interviews were conducted face to face or over the phone in English or Arabic by a NRC consultant, with the assistance of a NRC staff interpreter. The primary data is supplemented by secondary desk review research.

Limitations: Due to the lack of access to the most relevant stakeholders – i.e.,
Syrian IDPs living inside Syria – and the opportunistic (rather than targeted) selection of stakeholders to interview, this report should be considered illustrative, but not necessarily representative, of the situations throughout the country. Additionally, HLP issues are very location-specific, and Syria represents a collection of many different environments and systems; there is no single set of universal features that applies to all areas. Finally, it is important to acknowledge that Syria remains in the midst of an ongoing war. The political dynamics remain fluid and it is necessary to constantly seek out and assess new information. Lack of access remains a significant constraint, and information gaps will likely persist for the foreseeable future. This guidance highlights the findings from the fieldwork, but also points out that there is still much that is not understood, and that analysis will be needed on an ongoing basis.