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
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.
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
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
“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.”
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
“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.