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No legal obligation on Jordan to receive more refugees — pundits

By Mohammad Ghazal - Jun 30,2018 - Last updated at Jun 30,2018

AMMAN — As tens of thousands flee violence and air strikes from Syria’s Daraa to Jordan’s border, experts say the entire international community needs to rise to the challenge and develop solutions that address the situation, but not at Jordan’s expense.

Calls on Jordan, which is home to 1.3 million Syrian refugees, to admit additional refugees coming from Daraa mounted in recent days as the Syrian army and its allies intensify strikes against southern parts of Syria.

Jordan should not be left to handle the situation alone, the experts said.

Jordan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom,  noted Musa Shteiwi, director of the University of Jordan’s (UJ) Centre of Strategic Studies (CSS). 

He said this principle is now considered a customary rule of international law

“In spite of this, Jordan has opened its borders since the start of the crisis in Syria and is home to 1.3 million Syrian refugees… Jordan has done more than enough, and the international community needs to listen this time and take action,” he told The Jordan Times.

The Kingdom has serious “economic and security concerns, and has never given up on its humanitarian role. But this time, Amman is keen on sending a message to the entire world that it cannot tolerate the situation anymore”, he said.

The solution to the current crisis in southern Syria needs to be based on relocating displaced Syrians within Syria, he said.

“The Syrian regime controls the majority of Syrian territories, and the UN and the international powers need to work for a solution to provide Syrians fleeing the violence with some places inside Syria where they can deliver aid to them,” he added.

“The crisis in Syria is an Arab, regional and humanitarian issue, and it is not only Jordan’s job to handle it,” he added.

Jamal Al Shalabi, a professor of political science at the Hashemite University, said the Kingdom’s leadership is keen on delivering a message to the world that it has had enough.

“Jordan feels let down by the Arab and foreign states, as it did not receive all the pledged aid over the past years,” he told The Jordan Times.

“The closure of the borders with Syria is a warning that there is a humanitarian crisis that Jordan cannot handle single-handedly … Jordan has fears of the infiltration of radicals and extremists, and there is also an economic burden on the country,” he added.

He described the decision to keep the borders sealed as a “rational” one in a political, security and sovereignty sense. 

“It is time, maybe, for the opposition in Syria to start talking with the regime and reaching settlements,” Shalabi added.

On social media, Jordanians launched several campaigns calling for the Kingdom’s borders to be opened to Syrians from Daraa. 

“We are all aware of #Jordan’s economic and security situation, but we cannot at this time of humanitarian crises at #Daraa with heavy bombardment to close the borders. At least, let us offer children and the vulnerable a “Safe Passage”!and YES, there are children,” Asma Jahamah (@Asma_Jahama) tweeted on Saturday.

The hashtag “#OpenTheBorders” has been trending in Jordan in recent days, with hundreds voicing support for letting in Syrians coming from Daraa.

Kawthar (@Kawthar_khalil) tweeted: “Opening the borders has other consequences and implications, this is why it is the job of all Arab and Islamic states and the foreign community to help in solving this humanitarian crisis.”

MaisAbdelhaleem (@maisabdelhaleem) agreed.

“#OpenTheBorders is not a call for Jordan but for the international community to ensure refuge for all people fleeing war and conflict! Create safe passage for them to safety! Jordan is the nearest neighbour,” she tweeted.

NisrinAlqatarneh‏ (@Nisreensq_) tweeted: “Proud to be Jordanian, despite the horrible economic situation in my country and our government’s call to close the borders, we Jordanians stand by our vow to welcome anyone in need of refuge and demand to open the borders, and vow to share our food with refugees.”

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