News ID: 209132
Published: 0608 GMT January 30, 2018

8,500 Syrian refugees still held in Jordanian no-go camp: Aid groups

8,500 Syrian refugees still held in Jordanian no-go camp: Aid groups

International aid groups say about 8,500 Syrian refugees are still locked up behind barbed wire in a no-go section of Jordan's second-largest refugee camp.

The Jordan INGO Forum, an alliance of 60 non-governmental groups, in a recent report asked Jordan to expedite security screenings. The coalition also noted that at the current pace it would take until October 2020 to empty out Azraq camp's fenced-in "Village 5."

"A year-and-a-half later, the screening process has proven long, tedious, opaque and irregular," the report said. It said residents of Village 5 — 8,580 at the end of December — were "increasingly desperate, unsure of what lies ahead."

The report also said Jordan sent 797 refugees to Village 5 from other areas of the country in 2017, "raising increasing concerns of the area's use as a detention facility." It also called on Jordan to lift other restrictions on Syrian refugees, including on movement from camps to Jordanian towns.

According to the forum, close to half of Azraq's residents had been forcibly transferred there from elsewhere in Jordan, including refugees caught in police checks without proper papers.

On Tuesday, forum coordinator Yannick Martin said that "a frank dialogue needs to take place on continuous restrictions of movement that Syrian refugees face."

Village 5 was set up in early 2016, as part of a compromise under which Jordan agreed to allow entry to more than 21,000 stranded Syrians from the border area.

They were to be held separately in Azraq for a while and undergo stringent security checks before joining the general camp population.

Jordan has said its policies are dictated by security concerns mainly extremists from the Takfiri Daesh outfit based in neighboring Syria and Iraq. 

The kingdom sealed its border with Syria in June 2016, after a deadly cross-border attack by Daesh, leaving tens of thousands of Syrians stranded in a remote desert area. 

The closure ended the UN's regular aid shipments from Jordan to displaced Syrians struggling for survival in a remote stretch of the desert. Conditions are worsening for them as winter grips the region.

According to the UN's estimates, between 45,000 and 50,000 Syrians have been stuck for months on the Syrian side of the frontier near Rukban.

Aid agencies have been struggling to reach those in need in the area since the onset of the emergency situation along the border.

In early January, Jordan agreed to a request by the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced Syrians stranded in harsh conditions near the border crossing with Syria.

The UN refugee agency says it has registered more than 650,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan since March 2011, when crisis erupted in Syria. 

Jordan shares a desert border of more than 370 kilometers with Syria and says it is hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees.

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