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Jordan: Vulnerable Refugees Forcibly Returned to Syria
Human Rights Watch
24 November 2014

(Beirut) – Jordanian authorities have forcibly deported vulnerable Syrian refugees back to Syria in violation of Jordan’s international obligations. Those deported include wounded men and unaccompanied children.

Refugee deportations violate the international law principle of nonrefoulement, which forbids governments from returning people to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened. Those deported include a group of 12 Syrian refugees who had been receiving treatment at a rehabilitation center in northern Jordan as well as four refugees, three of them children, whom Jordanian border police intercepted near the Syrian border.

“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.”

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According to an October report by the Syria Needs Analysis Project (SNAP), a nongovernmental monitoring group that provides independent analysis of the humanitarian situation of those affected by the Syrian crisis, “the number of refoulements of Syrian refugees [by Jordan] has increased in September [2014], particularly of those with invalid or outdated documentation or who have gone to Syria and returned back to Jordan.” An August Human Rights Watch report documented Jordan’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians from Syria, including deportation of 16 Palestinians to Syria since the beginning of 2013.

International humanitarian workers confirmed to Human Rights Watch that in late September, Jordan closed its border to nearly all refugees fleeing Syria. The SNAP report stated that “5,000 Syrians were stranded [in the border] with the [Jordanian Armed Forces] denying humanitarian agencies access to the area.”

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, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities should cease deportations and open the borders to Syrian refugees.

While Jordan is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, Jordan is nevertheless bound by the customary international law principle that that a country may not push back or return a refugee or asylum seeker to a country where there is a risk that the person’s life or freedom would be threatened or where they would face a serious risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Deportations of unaccompanied children violate Jordan’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Jordan ratified in 1991. The convention states that countries “shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee … shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance.” Under article 9 of the convention, Jordan is obliged to “ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.”

“As fighting in southern Syria intensifies, now is not the time for Jordan to harden its stance toward refugees who have nowhere else to flee,” Houry said. “Jordan certainly will want to secure its border, but it should not be turning its back on its neighbors.”

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