Syria’s neighbors must keep borders open for refugees, HRW says

03-07-2013

 

Syria’s neighbors Turkey, Jordan and Iraq have closed or tightened border restrictions, leaving tens of thousands of Syrian refugees stranded, New York-based Human Rights Watch has revealed in a report. 

“Iraqi, Jordanian, and Turkish border guards are pushing back tens of thousands of people trying to flee Syria,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch, adding that the lives of those trying to flee were in danger.

“Neither the pressure those countries are under due to rising refugee numbers, nor giving aid inside Syria, can justify violating people’s basic right to seek asylum from persecution and other abuse,” Simpson said.

According to the new report, only Lebanon has kept an open-door policy for Syrian refugees.

The number of refugees entering Jordan suddenly dropped last month, from around 1,500 per day to a few hundred. The Jordanian government has strenuously denied the claim that it closed its northern border to refugees, but refugees and activists said thousands are stranded along the border and are being denied access.

Human Rights Watch also said that Iraq has severely restricted the number of Syrians allowed in since August 2012, with new arrivals almost reduced to nothing in March this year.

Turkey is blocking thousands from passing through the Bab al-Salam crossing and only allowing small numbers through sporadically, Human Rights Watch reported.

“Syria’s neighbors should stop pushing desperate people back to places where their lives are in danger,” Simpson said, adding that the international community should send aid to the countries that shoulder the burden of hosting refugees.

Jordan is currently hosting more than half a million Syrian refugees, with 150,000 living in the Zaatari refugee camp in the north of the country. The majority live in urban areas, putting the country’s infrastructure under strain. The Syrian refugee contingent makes up around 10 percent of the Jordanian population.

The report also describes in detail the suffering a lot of Syrian refugees on the border with the neighboring countries endure, and mentioned, for example, a story that occurred on the Syrian-Jordanian border, in which 17-year-old Walid said he and his family waited for eight days near the Tel Shebab crossing before Jordanian officials allowed them to cross on May 29.

“According to their mood [the Jordanian border authorities] maybe let 50 people pass. Then they say, No more … The first 50 people would enter, and then they close it and say no one else can enter,”Walid said.

In related news, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said he had made progress with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a joint bid to hold an international peace conference on the Syrian crisis, the BBC reported.

“There are still things that have to be worked out over the course of these next days, but Foreign Minister Lavrov and I felt that this meeting was a very useful meeting, it was constructive and productive,” Kerry told reporters in Brunei, where he is attending an Asian regional security meeting.

“We narrowed down some of the options with respect to the potential of that conference. We both agreed that the conference should happen sooner rather than later,” he said.

The proposed summit, dubbed Geneva II, is unlikely to take place before the end of August, he added.

“August is very difficult for Europeans and others,” he said of the timing of the conference. “It may be somewhere thereafter.”

 

Source: HRW-Agencies

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