Last updated: 3 June, 2015

Jordan stranding hundreds of Syria refugees in desert: HRW

Human Rights Watch accused Jordan Wednesday of leaving hundreds of Syrian refugees stranded in the desert along its border with little access to aid after closing informal frontier crossings.

But Amman says its border remains open to Syrian refugees.

“Jordanian authorities have severely restricted” the movement since March of refugees fleeing the war in Syria, the watchdog said.

It said it had analysed satellite imagery that showed large build-ups of refugees stranded just inside Jordanian territory after informal border crossings were shut.

HRW said those trapped “have only limited access to food, water, and medical assistance”.

“Jordan should allow the stranded people to move further into Jordan, and let UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, register them as asylum seekers,” the New York-based group said.

Jordan kept all border crossings with Syria open until mid-2013, after which it began to impose limits on the number of crossing points and the amount of refugees it allowed to enter, HRW said.

“Jordan has gone to great lengths to meet the needs of the Syrian refugees,” said Nadim Houry, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

“But that is no excuse to abandon newer arrivals in remote border areas for weeks without effective protection and regular aid access.”

Some 600,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UN in Jordan, which says it is hosting up to 1.5 million Syrians informally.

Government spokesman Mohammed Mumani said Jordan “has no need to defend itself regarding Syrian refugees.

Speaking at a news conference, he said “136 refugees crossed the Jordanian border today, and they were welcomed, registered… then sent to a refugee camp”.

Jordan announces almost daily the arrival of more than 100 Syrians on its territory.

“We have received 1.4 million Syrian refugees, which represents 20 percent of the kingdom’s population,” Mumani said.

But of that number, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it has registered only 600,000.