Amnesty International has urged Israel to take "necessary steps" to
ensure anyone fleeing Syria be allowed to benefit from effective and
systematic protection procedures in a letter sent to Defense Minister
Ehud Barak on Saturday.
The statement came after Barak was quoted as saying he would act to prevent Syrian refugees
from entering Israel.
"They [refugees] have not chosen to come
close to us, but in the event of the regime's downfall, which could
happen...,[Israeli forces] here are alert and ready, and if we have to
stop waves of refugees, we will stop them," Barak said on Thursday
during a tour of the Golan area, according to Reuters.
An Israeli defense source, however, noted that Barak, in
his comments, spoke only about preventing a flood of refugees,
apparently not closing the door completely to Syrians seeking safety.
Barak’s statement was particularly relevant in light of severe
escalation in the level of violence across Syria following an attack on
18 July which killed the Syrian defense minister, his deputy, the
assistant vice-president and the head of national security in Damascus.
Amnesty International stated in the letter to Barak: "Anyone
fleeing Syria– where all the evidence suggests that crimes against
humanity and war crimes are being committed on a mass scale against the
population– [should] be allowed to benefit from safeguards to prevent
their forcible return to Syria, where they may face serious human rights
abuses including torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful killing, and
prolonged incommunicado detention."
The UN refugee agency last month doubled its forecast for the number of refugees who will flee Syria this year to 185,000.
has an obligation to protect all individuals against refoulement (as
enshrined under international refugee law, including the 1951 Refugee Convention
and its 1967 Protocol), according to the Amnesty International letter. This requires that the authorities allow
individuals full access to protection - any actions or omissions on
their part which result in anyone in flight being rejected at the
Syrian/Israeli-controlled Golan Heights border would constitute
refoulement in violation of Israel’s international obligations.
International has raised concerns in the past about Israel’s treatment
of asylum seekers and refugees, including longstanding concerns about
the lack of fairness, consistency and transparency in its Refugee Status
Determination (RSD) system. The rights group stated that as a result of these failures, less than 200
individuals have been granted refugee status - which is less than 1 percent of all applicants - since the
establishment of Israel in 1948, and despite the fact that there are
over 50,000 asylum-seekers in the country today.
International has also addressed its campaigning efforts to other
countries which neighbor Syria and which continue to host tens of
thousands of refugees from Syria, including Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.