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Number of stranded Syrians ‘exaggerated’ — gov’t

By Khetam Malkawi , Reuters - Dec 08,2015 - Last updated at Dec 08,2015

AMMAN — Jordan will continue its open border policy, giving priority to the entry of women and children refugees from Syria, Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani said Tuesday. 

Commenting on a UN statement that 12,000 Syrian refugees were stranded at the border in "deteriorating humanitarian conditions", Momani told The Jordan Times that the number was "exaggerated", stressing that the Kingdom receives refugees on a daily basis.

"Jordan is a sovereign state. We have legitimate security concerns," he added, stressing that the Kingdom performs security checks on refugee arrivals.

What Jordan has done to serve Syrian refugees has not been matched elsewhere in the world, Momani noted.

"We have 1.4 million Syrian refugees and we don't need to prove our record in this regard," he added, stressing that the international community's support merely covers 38 per cent of the cost of hosting refugees.

The UN says the stranded Syrians are fleeing escalating air strikes on their battered homeland as well as punishments imposed on civilians by Daesh militants in the north, including forced marriages, beheadings and floggings, according to Reuters.

The number of refugees at the remote northeastern border with Jordan, where many are gathering near an earthen wall, has jumped to 12,000 from 4,000 in recent weeks, the UNHCR said.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement said aid workers “with close knowledge of the situation” say the vast majority of the people in the area are women and children who urgently need more food, water, and medical assistance.

Aid workers and two Jordanian relief officials attributed the sudden rise in refugees at the border to Russian bombing of Daesh-controlled areas in eastern Homs, such as Palmyra, as well as in Raqqa province and city, according to Reuters.

“[The group] includes elderly people, it includes people who are sick and wounded, it includes children, women and others who are vulnerable and really need help,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a briefing in Geneva.

Respiratory tract infections, gastroenteritis and skin diseases such as scabies have been reported. There are signs of acute malnutrition among children and outbreaks of diarrhoea.

The UNHCR is appealing to Jordan to allow in the most vulnerable cases, Fleming said, acknowledging that the Kingdom hosts some 632,228 Syrian refugees, severely straining its infrastructure and economy.

She said Jordan had legitimate security concerns but those could be addressed by properly assessing each case, and UNHCR was prepared to upgrade security of the registration area at the Azraq camp to allow for comprehensive screening.

 

HRW said a satellite image of the border area taken the morning of December 5 revealed more than 1,450 tent structures, indicating the likely presence of thousands of Syrians.

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