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End forcible transfer of Syrian refugees from Jordan to 'no-man’s land' desert camp

Aid convoy of the red crescent arriving at the Rukban desert camp [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 September, 2020

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Amnesty International is calling on Jordan to stop transferring Syrian refugees to a desert region of Syria.

Refugees, including several children, have been forcibly relocated to an "informal camp" in the desert between Syria and Jordan, prompting condemnation from rights groups.

Jordanian authorities transferred at least 16 Syrian refugees – eight of those children aged between four and 14 – to Rukban, an informal camp in an isolated border region between Syria and Jordan Amnesty International reported.

"Forcibly detaining and transferring refugees is a clear violation of their rights to liberty and to freedom of movement, and sending them to the berm violates their rights to an adequate standard of living and to health.

"The conditions in the informal camp in Rukban are so dire that some refugees sent there have even opted to return to Syria, where their lives are at risk," said Marie Forestier, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Refugee and Migrant Rights.

"We are urging the authorities in Jordan to put an end to forcible transfers immediately."

"They must ensure that all those transferred are allowed to re-enter Jordan safely.

"They also must ensure that all the camp’s residents have access to essential goods and services, including by urgently permitting unrestricted access to humanitarian aid."

There are 10,000 residents in the informal camp, and Amnesty reports that residents "lack access to sufficient and affordable food, clean water, medical care and sanitation".

As a result, one family at the camp who could not live under such conditions were forced to return to Syria.

Two community leaders in the berm told Amnesty International that one of the two Syrian families who was sent to the berm in July immediately returned to a regime-controlled area in Syria, despite fears of being subjected to human rights violations, due to the camp’s appalling conditions.

"Forcibly transferring refugees to a place where they are at risk of serious human rights violations or abuses amounts to refoulement, which is prohibited under international law," said Marie Forestier.

"Moreover, the fact that these transfers subsequently pushed people to return to Syria, from where they had fled, underscores just how unbearable life is in the berm," she added.

"The Jordanian government must abide by its international obligations, including the duty to abide by the principle of non-refoulement."

Activists have blamed the shortages on a Russian and Syrian regime siege on the camp.

Jordan says the camp is inside Syrian territory and so should be served by aid agencies in Damascus.

It has allowed the occassional aid drop via cranes to the berm area despite claiming Rukban is not its responsibility.

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