5 July 2012
HRW report finds that Jordan has been singling out Syrians of Palestinian origin, sending them to holding facilities.
Jordanian authorities have been turning away Syrian refugees of Palestinian heritage or threatening to deport those who have arrived in Jordan from Syria over the past year, according to a report released on Wednesday by Human Rights Watch.
In addition, reports coming out of northern Jordan suggested a spike in the number of Syrians seeking refuge over the last few days, with more than 2,300 arriving Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera.
While locals have been trying to help those who have already crossed the border, providing them with makeshift tents and other supplies, the Jordanian authorities are struggling to get a handle on this growing crisis.
“The situation in Syria is out of control,” a local analyst, who frequently assists HRW, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Wednesday.
“The crisis is becoming a religious, regional conflict and it does not seem like there will be a solution found anytime soon.”
Meanwhile, said the analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, “Jordan must take in these refugees for humanitarian reasons even though we cannot afford to let them set up home permanently here because we just do not have the resources.”
He said that many of those arriving do not have official papers or identification, either because they left their homes in a hurry or because they destroyed them while escaping from Syria.
Another problem, he pointed out, is that many Jordanians who married Syrians, including those with Palestinian backgrounds, are suddenly seeking Jordanian citizenship for spouses, and this could eventually cause a demographic problem for Jordan. The population balance between Jordanians with Palestinian heritage and those without is a contentious issue in the Hashemite Kingdom.
According to the HRW report released on Wednesday, since mid-April Jordanian authorities have been singling out Syrians of Palestinian origin, sending them to holding facilities in or around the town of Ramtha. In the meantime, other Syrian refugees have been allowed to move freely in Jordan if they have a local guarantor.
Official figures suggest that some 27,000 Syrian asylum-seekers have been registered in Jordan since March 2011, but this does not include the hundreds of Palestinians who have fled Syria and have been registered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the HRW report said.
“To its credit, Jordan has allowed tens of thousands of Syrians to cross its borders irregularly and move freely in Jordan, but it treats Palestinians fleeing the same way differently,” commented Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate for Human Rights Watch. “All those fleeing Syria – Syrians and Palestinians alike – have a right to seek asylum in Jordan, move freely in Jordan, and shouldn’t be forced back into a war zone.”
From mid-June 2012, the New York-based HRW interviewed more than a dozen Syrian-Palestinians now in Jordan. Although they had entered the country in a similar fashion to thousands of other Syrians, without passing through the official border crossing, these families were singled out and detained for months with no possibility of release. There were even some claims of individuals or families being forcibly returned to Syria.
Even though the report quoted Dr.
Sa’d al-Wadi al-Manasir, the general secretary of Jordan’s Interior Ministry, as denying that any of the refugees had been sent back to Syria or that Syrians of Palestinian heritage had been singled out for different treatment, the organization interviewed more than a dozen Syrian- Palestinians who contradicted those claims.
One man, who crossed the border last March, said he was forced to cross back into Syria on two occasions and threatened with deportation.
Eventually, he was allowed to stay but he told HRW: “They told me I couldn’t stay in Jordan and refused to say why. They drove me back to the barbed wire where I had crossed and forced me at gunpoint to cross back into Syria.”
The man reported walking only 15 meters into Syria but returning and then being taken back to the army’s barracks for interrogation. Another young man of Palestinian heritage, who crossed the border with his wife and two young children, also said that the family had been driven back to where they had crossed over and told they could not stay in Jordan.
“We could hear shooting on the other side of the border, so I lay down in front of the car with my children and said we were not going back. My wife fainted. Then without any explanation, they put us back into the car and drove us to the [refugee] center in Beshabshe,” he told HRW.