Home Thematic Reports The Kingdom of Jordan Endangers the Lives of Syrian Refugees by Forcibly Deporting them to Syria

The Kingdom of Jordan Endangers the Lives of Syrian Refugees by Forcibly Deporting them to Syria

The Deportation of Refugees to Syria Violates the "Principle of non-Refoulement in International Law"

by wael.m
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Thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan face the danger of deportation to their war-torn country for six years. In recent months, the pace of expulsions of refugees and returning them to Syria, particularly to Daraa in southern Syria, has increased by the Jordanian authorities. The deportees are at risk of death again, after a safe environment has been provided for them in the asylum camps in the north of Jordan, Syrians for Truth and Justice/STJ Reporter in Daraa confirmed.

During the past years, the Jordanian authorities, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have built several camps  for Syrian refugees in the north Jordan, including the Zaatari camp, which is the largest of these camps, given it contains more than 80 thousand Syrian refugees currently, according to the latest statistics published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on its web page. According to the latter, the number of Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR reached more than 650, 000 over the entire Jordanian territory. However, with the beginning of 2014, the expulsions and deportations of thousands of Syrian refugees from Jordan began to increase in the subsequent years (2015, 2016 and 2017). This was observed by eyewitnesses and a number of residents of the Nasib border crossing, which is near the so-called "eject point", where the Jordanian authorities place the "unwanted" refugees on that point to be received by the Syrian armed opposition and to be entered into the Syrian territory.

Image shows Syrian refugees deported by the Jordanian authorities on May 25, 2017. Photo credit: STJ

Hasan Hourani, an activist from the Nasib border crossing, confirmed in his testimony to STJ that only with the beginning of 2017, the locals witnessed the deportation of almost 90 refugees on a daily basis, including families of women and children, that is, about 2,700 refugees a month. He continued

"The deportees are placed in a border/eject point 7 km west of Nasib border crossing, and then transported by buses to their areas in Daraa countryside and Idlib. Some of those deportees had lost their homes because of the shelling and the destruction, and were forced to resort to al-Rukban camp, one of the random camps that lies on exactly the Jordanian-Syrian border.

After asking most of the deportees about the reason for their deportation, they emphasized it is what the Jordanian authorities call "security problems" or the absence of work permits, which allow refugees to work outside the camps, are the most prominent of those reasons, Hourani added."

A satellite image shows the border/eject point, 7 km away from the Nasib border crossing, where the Jordanian authorities eject the unwanted Syrian refugees.

Various Charges Behind the Expulsion and Deportation of Syrian Refugees by the Jordanian Authorities:

In a related context, STJ interviewed some Syrian refugees who had been recently deported from Jordan. Wael El-Hasan from Ash-Shajarah town in the western countryside of Daraa, is one of those refugees, who sought refuge with his family in Jordan in 2012, after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS controlled his hometown. In April 2017, the Jordanian authorities deported him along with his family for the following reasons that he narrated to STJ:

"I went to Jordan and worked in one of the shops in Zarqa, the Jordanian city, and I used to send a modest sum of money to my mother and my younger brother in Syria, given the hard living conditions there. On April 9, 2017, and during a visit to my brother in Zaatari refugee camp, a Jordanian security officer came and asked me to accompany him to the Intelligence Branch. I was shocked when the interrogator began asking questions concerning the amounts of money that I sent to Syria, and whether my younger brother has links with any extremist groups- knowing that my brother does not belong to any armed factions- but eventually they accused me of supporting ISIS. The same day, my family and I, in addition to my middle brother's family, all of us, were expelled and put on the Syrian-Jordanian border, to be moved to the Syrian armed opposition controlled-villages."

Wael Hasan’s family and his brother's family are just an example of hundreds and thousands of other families. Their searching journey, for a place that might protect them from death, began again. Moreover, with the impossibility of return to their ISIS-controlled town, they found no choice but to go to Busra city, in the eastern countryside of Daraa, although the Syrian regular army still bombards it heavily, STJ reported.

Image shows some recently deported refugees from Jordan while entering the Syrian territory on May 25, 2017. Photo credit: STJ

The refugee, Omar al-Balkhi, born in 1985, informed STJ that he took refuge in Jordan with his wife and daughter in early 2014, fleeing the shelling of regular army on his village in Eastern Daraa countryside. Nevertheless, the Jordanian authorities deported him for flimsy reasons in March 2017, he added:

"I was a teacher at a United Nations school in the Zaatari camp. One day, the military intelligence officer in the camp summoned me to his office and began investigating about the nature of my work prior to my asylum in Jordan as well as about my relatives inside Syria. After that, he mentioned the name of a well-known person from my hometown, whom I have no relations with; this person formerly belonged to the Islamic Mouthana Movement, which became an essential component of Jaish Khaled Ibn al-Walid [1] affiliated to ISIS. The interrogator accused me of several unfounded accusations, one of them was that I worked as a reporter for that armed faction, and the other accusation was that my younger brother belonged to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham/HTS. During the investigation, I was beaten and insulted. The next day on March 3, 2017, my family and I, alongside other families were deported; the majority were from Jaish Khalid Ibn al-Walid- controlled villages."

The Balkhi family found itself homeless after being expelled by the Jordanian authorities, notably that their hometown Mjedel village , located in the eastern countryside of Daraa, suffers from a major displacement wave given the Syrian regular army shelled it with artillery and barrel bombs. As a result, the family was forced to flee towards al-Harak city, Daraa, as it was not subjected to daily shelling by the Syrian Regular army. The family currently faces extremely difficult living conditions, according to STJ reporter.

Image of a newly deported Syrian refugee woman from Jordan with her children, while entering Syrian territory on May 25, 2017.
Photo credit: STJ

The “political and military affiliation” of the Refugee’s Relatives puts them at risk of deportation:

The refugee Abo Ammar al-Ahmad, 60, from Daraa countryside, was among the victims who was forcibly deported by the Jordanian authorities. He testified that the Jordanian authorities expelled him and his family on January 22, 2017, after considering him responsible for his son’s political and military orientations. He told his story saying:

"In 2012, I gave up my work as an officer in the Syrian Interior Ministry, and decided to defect, because I refused to shoot at peaceful demonstrators. Without any hesitation, I travelled to Jordan, where I was placed in the al-Rajhi military camp, whereas they put my wife and my five children in the Zaatari camp. Moreover, in order to be able to stay with them in the camp, every month, I used to renew my vacations from the military camp with the help of a Jordanian sponsor. In 2015, one of my sons, Hassan, applied for a return to Syria, later I learned that he joined Hayat Tahrir al-Sham/HTS in Daraa."

In mid-January 2017, the Jordanian security summoned Abo Ammaragain to investigate the issue of his son’s joining HTS. When Abo Ammar denied knowing any information about his son Hassan, the officer asked him to return to the tent without any charges against him. In this regard, Abo Ammar said:

"One week later, I was summoned again by the Jordanian security, and they showed me a video of my son with a group of fighters during their military training. Immediately, the officer gave me a deadline, less than four hours, to pack up our bags. He considered me responsible for my son's terrorist beliefs; despite I did not know about that until several months later. They put us on the Jordanian border where our suffering began, as my village is under the control of the regular army, and I cannot reach it fearing of arrest. Therefore, I went to Saida town, in the western countryside of Daraa, though it is under constant bombardment by the Syrian regular army. In fact, I do not know how our destiny will be while war and destruction is ongoing around us. "

Not Having Work Permits May be Another Reason for Deportation

Ahmed Tayseer, a young man from Inkhil city in Daraa countryside,  spoke to STJ about the Jordanian authorities decision to deport him  on January 27, 2017, given he did not have the permit to work outside the Zaatari camp, despite he was a refugee in Jordan several years ago, since the beginning of 2013, he said:

I worked in construction in Amman, the capital, and one day a Jordanian security patrol stopped me and asked for my identity documents and my work permit, but I told them that I do not have enough money to obtain a work permit that cost JD 400. However, my excuse was not enough to prevent them arresting me. The next day, I was transferred to the Zaatari camp security branch, where the interrogator received me with insults and bad language, and decided to deport my family and me. So I was forced to return to Inkhil, where nothing except bomb and destruction. I am currently selling vegetables, perhaps I could make a living for my children amidst the death looming over us from all sides.”

Some Statistics About the Number of Deportees in the Recent Months

Abu Sharif Mahameed, the commander of Suqour al-Janoub, also known as Hawks of the South, affiliated to the Syrian armed opposition, and who oversees the management of the border crossing in coordination with the Jordanian authority since November 2016, said in a testimony to STJ:

 "Our mission is to protect and document numbers and identities of all refugees who return to Syria, and I can say that the most were forcibly deported refugees by the Jordanian authorities. Since we administrate this border point, we recorded approximately 200 deported family per month, each family has three to twelve persons. We documented the identities of 1,100 forcibly deportees, from April 8, 2017, to May 9, 2017."

"While Jordan is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, Jordan is nevertheless bound by the customary international law principle that a country may not push back or return a refugee or asylum seekers to a country where there is a risk that the person’s life or freedom would be threatened or where they would face a serious risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment[2]."


[1] Jaish Khaled Ibn al-Walid was founded in late May 2016 in Hawd al-Yarmouk, due to the ongoing fight among Syrian armed opposition formations and other groups accused of belonging to ISIS, and after the success of the armed opposition formations by confining these groups to one geographical location. The formation contains five groups, Al-Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Mouthana Movement, the Jihad Brigades, the Hamza Asadullah Battalion, and the Ansar al-Aqsa Group.

 [2] Human Rights Watch report: Jordan: Vulnerable Refugees Forcibly Returning to Syria, November 24, 2014. For the full report, please click on the followi https://www.hrw.org/ar/news/2014/11/24/264849

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