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HRW accuses Jordan of turning back Palestinians coming from Syria

By Khetam Malkawi - Aug 07,2014 - Last updated at Aug 07,2014

AMMAN — Jordan refuses the entry of or deports Palestinians escaping Syria’s unrest, charged a report launched on Thursday, which has been challenged by the government.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report “Not Welcome: Jordan’s Treatment of Palestinians Escaping Syria” claimed that Jordan has officially banned the entry of Palestinians from Syria since January 2013 and has forcibly deported over 100 who managed to enter the country since mid-2012, including women and children.

However, the case is not unique to Jordan, according to the report, as other countries in the region also deny Palestinians entry.

“Jordan is not the only country that [refuses their entry], but also Lebanon and Iraq,” Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at HRW, said at a press conference to launch the report.

He noted that Turkey has not restricted entry but it is difficult for Palestinians living in the south of Syria to cross into Turkey.

Citing UNRWA figures, the report said 14,000 Palestinians who fled from the violence in Syria are currently residing in Jordan.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said the report was inaccurate, noting that HRW targets Jordan, which has received millions of refugees, and ignores other countries in the region, especially those that forced the migration of the Palestinians in the first place.

The Kingdom, he said, cannot be accused of turning back refugees when no other country in the world has received as many.

Ensour said HRW cannot criticise Jordan without asking where Palestinian refugees should go if they leave Syria, noting that they should be allowed to return to their homeland.  

Responding to this, Coogle said “the Palestinians should have the right to return” to their country, but added that HRW is calling for a temporary refuge for Palestinians now.

HRW said the report is based on interviews with more than 30 people affected by the non-admission policy. 

It also claimed that Jordan has withdrawn Jordanian citizenship from some Palestinians who had lived in Syria for many years and who have been deported to Syria without identity documents. 

In addition, the report alleged that Jordanian security forces have been turning away Palestinians coming from Syria at the border since mid-2012, while the government announced its official non-admittance policy in January 2013.

But Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs Khaled Kalaldeh said border guards do not even ask about the nationality of refugees when they receive them.

“Once we let refugees in through the border, we do not discriminate between them on grounds of origin,” Kalaldeh told The Jordan Times earlier this week.

Hundreds of Palestinians who fled to Jordan were hosted in a facility known as Cyber City, an industrial complex on the edge of the border city of Ramtha, some 90km north of Amman.

Kalaldeh added that all refugees — Syrians and Palestinians — who manage to cross the border are treated on equal footing.

However, a process of scrutiny is conducted after their entry into Jordan. 

“We cannot allow those who do not have documents to stay, regardless of who they are.”

“This is the practice all over the world,” the minister said.

According to official figures, there are 1.4 million Syrians in Jordan, including some 606,000 registered refugees. Jordan also hosts over 2 million registered Palestinian refugees.

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