Jordanian authorities have systematically blocked Palestinian refugees seeking escape from neighboring Syria over the past year, according to a report from Human Rights Watch, or HRW.
Amman officials have forcibly returned Palestinians back to strife-torn Syria or have threatened to deport those who have been able to cross into Jordan. These Palestinians have been arbitrarily detained in refugee holdings centers with no hope of release -- the only option available to them is a return to Syria.
In stark contrast, Jordan has permitted thousands of Syrians into the country since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted, leading to chaos and extreme violence in Syria.
Syrian refugees in Jordan are able to freely move around and are not threatened with deportation.
“To its credit, Jordan has allowed tens of thousands of Syrians to cross its borders irregularly and move freely in Jordan, but it treats Palestinians fleeing the same way differently,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate for HRW.
“All those fleeing Syria -- Syrians and Palestinians alike -- have a right to seek asylum in Jordan, move freely in Jordan, and shouldn’t be forced back into a war zone.”
Palestinians, mostly from the West Bank, already account for about one-third of Jordan’s 6 million-strong population.
HRW has asserted that asylum-seekers should not be sent back to their native country if they face the real risks of suffering violence and torture.
“There can be no excuse for deporting people to a situation where there is a real risk to their lives,” Simpson said.
“The authorities should issue clear orders to security officials on the border to protect anyone crossing from Syria who is seeking asylum in Jordan.”
Reportedly, some Palestinians are being helped by the opposition Free Syrian Army in escaping to Jordan. But once they arrive in Jordan, they face discrimination.
“Palestinians from Syria say they are fleeing their homes because of fighting, generalized insecurity and fear of arrest, just like Syrian refugees,” Simpson said.
“Jordan’s differing treatment of Syrian and Palestinian asylum seekers looks like nationality-based discrimination, rather than treatment based on objective evidence that Palestinians in Syria face less risk of harm than Syrians.”
A local analyst told the Jerusalem Post newspaper of Israel that the situation in Syria is out of control.
“The crisis is becoming a religious, regional conflict, and it does not seem like there will be a solution found anytime soon,” he said.
“Jordan must take in these refugees for humanitarian reasons even though we cannot afford to let them set up home permanently here because we just do not have the resources.”
The U.N. estimated that there are a total of abut 500,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria.