According to a new report published today by Amnesty International, the Jordanian authorities are not keeping their borders open to all individuals fleeing the conflict in Syria. Amnesty’s research shows that Palestinian refugees from Syria, unaccompanied men who cannot prove that they have family ties in Jordan, people without identity documentation, and Iraqi refugees living in Syria are being denied entry as a general rule.
The Jordanian government spokesman has denied the allegations. Spokesperson Dr Mohammed al-Momani told the BBC that “refugees that reach our borders are allowed in, in accordance with international law and Jordan’s historical position of providing safety to those who seek it”.
The research also indicates that hundreds of refugees from Syria have been forcibly returned across the border from Jordan, including 200 refugees living in the Za’atri camp after protests in August 2012, that involved violent acts, single Palestinian men, people accused of security offences such as carrying weapons, or those who allegedly have behaved “indecently”, such as two Syrian women forcibly returned in mid-2012, after being accused of having “inappropriate” sexual relations.
According to the report, people fleeing Syria to other countries in the region are also being hampered by tightening border restrictions. Lebanon is host to the most Syrian refugees in the region and has generally demonstrated favourable policies towards them, but since August 2013, it has tightened its border and many people seeking to flee Syria have been denied entry. Since mid-2012, Turkey has blocked thousands of individuals fleeing Syria from entering, particularly those without a passport or an urgent medical need, leaving many displaced on the Syrian side of the border. Iraq has repeatedly closed its borders to people fleeing Syria. Since July 2013, Egypt has arrested and deported hundreds of refugees from Syria for reasons such as trying to leave the country illegally after a shift in the political climate in Egypt. Outside the region, refugees from Syria have been subjected to abuse, including collective expulsions from Greece and ill-treatment by the authorities.
Amnesty International urges neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to all individuals fleeing the Syrian conflict. It also calls on the international community to step up its efforts and provide more support to help them to do so. In addition to providing economic and technical support to the host countries in the region, Amnesty International calls on donor governments to undertake and/or expand resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, in co-operation with UNHCR, in order to show solidarity towards Syria’s neighbouring countries and to enable the most vulnerable refugees to leave the region and settle safely in other countries.