(photo credit: AP)
A US-based human rights group criticized Jordan Monday for stripping the citizenship of nearly 3,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin in recent years.
Nearly half the kingdom's 6 million people are of Palestinian origin and Jordan fears that if Palestinians become the majority, it will disrupt the delicate demographic balance.
Concerned about increasing numbers of Palestinians in the country, Jordan in 2004 began revoking citizenship from Palestinians who do not have the Israeli permits that are necessary to reside in the West Bank.
Human Rights Watch said Jordan stripped about 2,700 Jordanians of Palestinian origin of their citizenship between 2004 and 2008 and urged them to restore their full rights. The trend continued last year, the group said in a report released in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
The Jordanian measure rendered the Palestinians "stateless," depriving them of passports, voting rights, education, travel, health care and jobs, said Christoph Wilcke, HRW researcher on Jordan.
"Jordan is playing politics with the basic rights of thousands of its citizens," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Jordanian officials denied any wrongdoing.
Wilcke said there is "no part of Jordan's law that allows the Interior Ministry to withdraw nationality by imposing new conditions," such as having Israeli-issued residency permits for the West Bank.
Those permits are extremely difficult to obtain, given Israel's restrictive policies on granting residency rights to Palestinians, Wilcke added.
Jordanian Interior Ministry spokesman Karim Naber claimed that his country did not revoke anyone's citizenship but "only suspended" giving social security numbers "pending reunification of families" in the West Bank.
Most Palestinians hesitate to take their cases to the courts, fearing
legal steps would only finalize their loss of Jordanian citizenship,
A few Palestinian Jordanians have had their citizenship reinstated,
often with help from the royal court, Wilcke added, but provide no
Defending the measure, Jordanian Interior Minister Nayef al-Qadi
recently said the government wants Jordanians of Palestinian origin to
clarify their status by renewing permits that recognize them as West
Bank citizens in order to preserve their Palestinian identity.
Wilcke warned others could be at risk from a similar measure, such as
250,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin expelled by Kuwait during the
1991 Gulf War.