Jordan forcibly deporting Syrian refugees

Syrian refugee children, climb a water tower to collect some, at Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border, in Mafraq, Jordan. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Jordan is forcing some refugees – including children and injured adults – to return to war-torn Syria, according to Human Rights Watch. The New York-based organization sharply criticized the the action.

“Jordan is carrying a heavy refugee burden, but it should not be in the business of sending any refugees back to a conflict zone where their lives are threatened, much less children and wounded men who can’t even walk,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Such deportations create an environment of fear that affects all refugees.”

International human rights norms for refugees, such as the 1951 Refugee Convention, say countries must not send home or turn away refugees who face personal danger in their home country. Human Rights Watch says that people fleeing Syria are in danger if they are returned to the country. More than three years of civil war has destroyed some of the country’s cities and left thousands dead. Jordan is home to some 619,000 of the 3.2 million refugees displaced by the conflict.

A lack of resources, namely money, has hampered the ability of aid groups and the U.N. to respond. The World Food Programme and the U.N. refugee agency both have been forced to make cuts in aid for refugees because inadequate budgets. Jordan and fellow host countries, such as Lebanon, are also struggling to support the increasing number of people entering from Syria.

The situation makes an already difficult situation even harder for the refugees. Reports of deportations are indicative of the stress felt by host countries and concerning for the refugees. Various groups and individuals were turned away or sent back to Syria from Jordan, found Human Rights Watch.

In one instance a dozen Syrians were deported in early September. The group was receiving treatment at the Dar al-Karama rehabilitation center and most had refugee certificates. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the center was raided by Jordanian police. They rounded up six paralyzed men, four wounded adults and two wounded children and sent them back to Syria.

The Jordanian government confirmed that the center was raided, but said people were not deported. It cited the fact that the center was not officially licensed by Jordan’s Health Ministry as the reason for the closure. People interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that the center was in contact with national health officials and was not accepting undocumented refugees.

“Jordan should immediately facilitate the return of all deported refugees who wish to re-enter Jordan, including children who want to reunite with their families,” said Human Rights Watch in its press release. “The authorities should cease deportations and open the borders to Syrian refugees.”

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.