Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Deportations of Syrians out of Jordan increase

ILLEGAL PRACTICE?Lama Fakih of Human Rights Watch said that many of the deportations broke the law by sending people back into dangerous areas

AP, AMMAN

Life as a refugee in Jordan suddenly ended for a Syrian carpenter when he was summoned for interrogation, blindfolded and sent on a bus back to Syria with his wife and four children the next morning.

After more than four years in Jordan, the 31-year-old is back in a war zone where he fears for his family’s safety and struggles to find work.

He has not heard from parents left behind in Jordan, presumably because they fear the same fate if they make contact.

“Everyone is afraid,” he said by Skype from Syria’s Daraa Province.

Deportations from Jordan have spiked in recent months, with entire Syrian families sent back for the first time, including large numbers of children, two international aid officials said.

One official said that more than one-third of several thousand refugees who went back to Syria from January to last month were forcibly deported, while others returned voluntarily.

International group Human Rights Watch said it has documented “numerous cases” since 2014 of Jordan forcibly returning Syrian asylum seekers to Syria.

In many cases, the deportations violate international law, which bars returning people to situations where they face danger or persecution, said Lama Fakih, deputy director of the group’s Middle East and North Africa division.

A Jordanian government official confirmed that deportations have taken place, but said refugees are only sent back on security grounds, after an investigation.

He did not give a total since the beginning of the year.

The official and the aid agency employees spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deportations.

Eight deportees interviewed on WhatsApp or Skype said they were expelled without due process or apparent reason, or were targeted because they spoke to relatives who live in areas of Syria controlled by Islamic State militants.

Returning refugees to war zones violates international law, especially when it is done without due process and includes family members, said Jeff Crisp, a former official at the UN refugee agency.

About 5 million Syrians fled their country since the outbreak of conflict there in 2011. Close to 660,000 are registered as refugees in Jordan. Syria’s neighbors have effectively closed their borders, overburdened by the initial influx of refugees and wary of risks to security.

Jordan, part of an international anti-Islamic State military coalition, is increasingly concerned about the domestic threat posed by the militant group’s supporters.

The aid officials said the recent rise in deportations is apparently linked to a security crackdown launched after Islamic State militants killed 10 people in a series of attacks in Jordan in December.

The Jordanian official said refugees are only deported on security grounds, such as suspected contact with militant groups.

He said Jordan has the right to protect itself and to expel those it considers a security threat and the nation is compliant with international humanitarian law.

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