2013 AFP

Rights group accuses Jordan of abandoning Syrian refugees

Human Rights Watch urges Amman to grant hundreds of refugees stranded in desert border zone entry

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Jordan of leaving hundreds of Syrian refugees stranded in the desert along its border and urged the country to let them enter.

Since March, "Jordanian authorities have severely restricted" the movement of refugees fleeing the war in Syria, the human rights group said in a statement.

HRW said it had analyzed satellite images and gathered testimony from refugees that indicated a build-up of refugees just inside Jordanian territory after informal border crossings were closed.

Currently, two informal crossings into sparsely populated eastern Jordan — where the refugees are stranded — are the only entry points for most Syrians.  

About 2,500 Syrians were stuck in the remote area in mid-April. The number of stranded Syrians dropped to 1,000 in late May after Jordan allowed some to move out of the border zone, the report said.

HRW regional director Nadim Houry said that while Jordan has gone to great lengths to assist refugees, there is “no excuse to abandon newer arrivals in remote areas for weeks without effective protection and regular aid access.”

Government spokesman Mohammed Momani said Jordan "continues to adopt an open border policy" in line with procedures worked out with the relevant international organizations.

But HRW said Jordan's policy has fluctuated in recent months. In October, about 4,000 Syrians were stuck in the desert area, but between December and March, Jordan allowed refugees to enter for screening and eventual transport to a closed refugee camp, the group said. In March, Jordan again prevented many Syrians from entering the country.  

Jordan hosts about 630,000 Syrian war refugees, out of almost 4 million who have fled their country since 2011. The Jordanian government says a total of 1.4 million Syrians live within its borders, including those who came before 2011, and make up 20 percent of the country’s population.

HRW also urged the international community to assume greater responsibility for the refugees. Countries outside the region, including the United States and European Union, should absorb more Syrian refugees, it said.

Currently, most Syrian refugees live in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

Wire services

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter