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HRW says Jordan deporting Palestinian refugees from Syria

Aug. 8, 2014 1:45 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 10, 2014 11:05 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinians fleeing the conflict in Syria to Jordan are being returned against their will to the war-torn country, a new Human Rights Watch report alleges.

The report, released on Thursday and entitled "Not Welcome: Jordan's Treatment of Palestinians Escaping Syria," said that Jordan has refused entry to Palestinians trying to escape Syria since Jan. 2013, and has "forcibly deported" more than 100 who have managed to enter since mid-2012.

The report quoted Sana, an elderly Palestinian woman, who described how her son-in-law Mohammad and his brother were detained while working "illegally," selling vegetables in Irbid.

She said that they had entered the country with their Syrian wives using forged Syrian family books and had registered with the UN's refugee agency UNHCR under false names.

The day after their detention, Sana went to the police station to find out their whereabouts and was told to come back the next day.

"They said they would find a solution for us. Mohammed called me an hour later from Syria," she added.

The deportees include a number of Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship who lived in Syria for years who had their citizenship withdrawn and were detained or deported to Syria without any form of identification.

The report directly contrasted the treatment of Palestinians from Syria -- who number around 520,000 -- with that of Syrian nationals, of whom at least 607,000 have been accepted into the country as refugees, the report said.

"The plight of the Palestinians is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about because everyone is already under such a burden to meet the needs of refugees from Syria," the report quoted Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, as saying.

"But no refugees fleeing the violence in Syria -- Syrians and Palestinians alike -- should be denied entry and forced back against their will."

Palestinian refugees in Syria are part of the seven million Palestinian refugees scattered worldwide, descendents of the 750,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their homes in what became the state of Israel in 1948.

Jordanian security forces have turned away Palestinians since mid-2012, but the policy was only formally announced in Jan. 2013, according to the report.

The report added that most of Syria's neighboring countries except for Turkey have also placed restrictions on the entry of Palestinians from Syria, and called upon Jordan to end its ban and halt deportations.

Human Rights Watch said that Jordanian officials have defended the policy, noting that more than half of the Jordanian population is composed of Palestinians and that the influx could dramatically alter the Kingdom's population, since after the conflict it could be difficult to deport Palestinians, who are a stateless population unlike Syrians.

The report said that despite the policy, as of July 2014 more than 14,000 Palestinians from Syria had sought support from UNRWA since the beginning of the conflict, a minority of which had entered the country lawfully.
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