Syrians risk forfeiting homes under new law

Damascus: More than 10 million Syrians who have fled the countrys raging war have been told to lay claim to their homes by early May or risk forfeiting them to the state, the media reported on Friday.

A property law announced this month has raised widespread fears that Syrian citizens who have opposed President Bashar al-Assad face permanent exile and that other people considered loyalists may be given access to their communities, reports the Guardian.

With the majority of internally displaced and overseas refugees unable or unwilling to return to prove ownership of properties, analysts and exiles say the law, known as Article 10, and the tight timeframe surrounding it could serve as an instrument of demographic change and social engineering.

It has drawn parallels with laws enacted in Lebanon after the civil war to seize land in central Beirut, and the absentee property law in Israel in 1950 that legalised seizures from Palestinians driven from their lands.

The Syrian law empowers local administrations to re-register property ownership within their areas, a move that requires landowners to be present.

“For millions of internally displaced and refugees, such proof (of ownership) will most likely be mission impossible,” the Guardian quoted Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, as saying.

“Many left without title deeds, some lived in informal settlements, therefore without legally recognised proof of ownership and for others – mainly refugees – going back to Syria to provide such proof is tantamount to a suicide mission.”