HRW accuses Jordan of blocking refugees

Human Rights Watch accuses Jordan of blocking Syrian refugees across the border

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, hundreds of Syrian refugees are stranded in Jordanian desert along the border with little access to aid after the closing of informal frontier crossings.

"Jordanian authorities have severely restricted the movement since March of refugees fleeing the war in Syria,” HRW officials said in a statement. 

“Jordan has gone to great lengths to meet the needs of the Syrian refugees,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of HRW. “But that is no excuse to abandon newer arrivals in remote border areas for weeks without effective protection and regular aid access.”

Jordan allowed Syrians to enter Jordan through all of its informal border crossings in the east and west until mid-2013, although it refused entry to many single Syrian men crossing without relatives, as well as Palestinian refugees from Syria and undocumented people. 

In mid-2013, Jordan closed all its informal western border crossings, which are much closer to populated areas of Jordan and Syria than those in the east, to everyone except wounded Syrians – both combatants and civilians – and other exceptional cases.

Closing the western route meant that Syrians hoping to escape to Jordan without going through Syrian government checkpoints had to travel across dangerous areas of Syria to cross through the informal eastern border crossings that remained open. Jordan heavily restricted entries at these eastern crossings too, for the first time, in July 2014.

However, on Dec. 11, Jordan finally allowed Syrians to enter and transferred them to nearby transit centres before transporting them to the Raba Sarhan registration centre operated by the government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) near the city of Mafraq. 

The group said it had analysed satellite imagery that showed a large buildup of refugees stranded just inside Jordanian territory after informal border crossings were shut.

HRW said those trapped "have only limited access to food, water, and medical assistance."

"Jordan should allow the stranded people to move further into Jordan, and let UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, register them as asylum seekers," the New York-based rights group said. 

Some 600,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UN in Jordan, which says it is hosting up to 1.5 million Syrians informally.

TRTWorld and agencies