By Lara Kajs
As of March 2013, as many as 10,000 people per day were crossing the Syrian border into neighboring countries.
Constant aerial bombing by the Syrian military has kept approximately 50,000 internally displaced persons from leaving the country. To date, more than a half million Syrians have fled into Jordan since the start of the civil war three years ago and the mass exodus of refugees increases by the day. While about 100,000 persons are in the Zaatari refugee camp located just inside Jordan, across the Syrian border, nearly twice that amount are struggling to survive outside the camp.
Syrian Women and Young Girls
Life for young Syrian girls in Jordan has been very difficult. Many are at risk for sexual abuse and being married off to older Jordanian men. Multiple reports claim that young girls are being “purchased” by older (sixty years old and older) Qatari and Saudi men. The exploitation of Syrian women and girls is deplorable and unacceptable. International law demands the protection of all refugees.
Jordan Deports Refugees
Additionally there have been reports that the number of refugees entering Jordan may be decreasing as the country has been accused of forcibly sending Syrian refugees home. According to a report issued by Amnesty International, in 2012 hundreds of refugees were deported by Jordan back to Syria and 2013 has been no different. Jordan has made no distinction between the national origins, sending back undocumented workers.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that the horribly impoverished conditions inside, as well as outside the refugee camps has forced many to seek employment which has created feelings of open hostility toward the refugees. The Syrians are blamed for the lack of jobs as well as the increase in the Kingdom’s unemployment rate which is fourteen percent.
Jordan Claims Deportations Legal
Jordan’s Ministry of Labor is holding fast to the country's laws stating that in order for refugees to work they must have the appropriate documentation and if they do not, they are breaking the law and are therefore, deportable. The Ministry is calling for more than 5,000 undocumented Syrians to be deported.
Officially, Jordan claims that anyone who has returned to Syria has done so voluntarily – but that is questionable. In a country ripped apart by civil war, it is inconceivable that Jordan or any other country for that matter, would send refugees that have successfully made safe passage, back into a war zone. Be that as it may, reports of Syrian deportation are not new to Jordan. There have been multiple reports of late night raids by police, the threat of beatings, Syrian refugees held in clandestine centers and being dumped at the border; events that are in violation of international law.
According to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees Article 33(1): “No Contracting State shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
Humanitarian aid – more than $750 million - has been awarded to Jordan to help with the costs incurred in refugee housing and basic necessities. The Kingdom of Jordan has asked for more money claiming that it is not enough to care for the refugees. While international charity organizations wait to bring in additional aid that would help the refugees, the Jordanian government will not allow the aid to pass which in turn puts the people most in need at an even higher risk for exploitation.