Jordan has said it cannot receive more Syrian refugees as escalating fighting in southern Syria is displacing tens of thousands of people.
Some 45,000 people are believed to be on the move and headed toward the border with Jordan, following government airstrikes on a rebel-held area of Syria’s Daraa province.
But Jordanian officials have said their border, which was sealed in mid-2014, will remain closed.
“We have received enough numbers of Syrian refugees; we already have a large number and we simply cannot receive more,” Jumana Ghunaimat, the minister for media affairs, told the Jordan Times.
“We are following up closely on the situation in southern Syria, and we are working with the Americans and the Russians to reach a deal to protect our national interests,” she said.
Around 650,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, but the government estimates twice that number are in the country and supporting the displaced population is challenging.
When Jordan closed the border in 2014, it led to a humanitarian crisis as some 60,000 people were forced into a lawless ad-hoc camp, inaccessible to any medical or humanitarian aid and controlled by exploitative criminal gangs.
Jordan’s King Abdullah then urged the international community to provide support for the stranded refugees but some were eventually allowed into the country – or at least the heavily restricted conditions of desert refugee camps.
Amnesty International has warned Jordan of the “dire consequences” that resulted from the previous closure of the border and said tens of thousands were still stranded in “deplorable” conditions.
“People fleeing war in Syria are in a desperate life-or-death situation, and the Jordanian government cannot simply abandon them,” Amnesty’s Mouna Elkekhia said.
Discussed efforts to resolve #Syrian crisis with #UN’s #Stafandemistura. Stressed inevitability of political solution that preserves unity, integrity of #Syria & is acceptable to Syrian people. Geneva track must be supported. Preserving deescalation zone in south a priority.
— Ayman Safadi (@AymanHsafadi) 17 June 2018
“Jordan has a duty to protect refugees from Syria fleeing conflict and persecution, and to allow them to enter the country. Closing the border to people in need of protection violates Jordan’s international obligations.”
The latest wave of airstrikes marks the end of a de-escalation deal agreed for southern Syria last year by Russia, the US and Jordan last year.
Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi urged the United Nations to help Syrians in Syria, and said Jordan would use “contacts over southern Syria to stem the bloodshed”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Assad’s regime had been bombing south west Daraa, adding that the conflict had killed several dozen.
Displaced people have set up tents in areas closer to the rebel-held Jordanian border, which the government hopes to reach, but it is unknown how close the ad-hoc camps are to the frontier.
“People don’t know where to go,” Ahmad al-Dbis, a manager at a medical charity in southern Syria, said.