Jun 19 2012
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Jordan 'adjusting' Syrian entry policy as lines between refugees, visitors blur
The government has imposed new restrictions on the entry of Syrian nationals arriving from third countries, leading authorities to turn back "dozens" of arrivals at Queen Alia International Airport, including most recently a group of 40 Syrians last week, according to an official source.
In a report issued late Sunday, the National Centre for Human Rights stated that a series of interviews with the group of 40 had revealed that they did not meet the requirements for refugee status as outlined in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and a 1998 memorandum of understanding between Jordan and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The interior ministry estimates that hundreds of non-vulnerable Syrian expatriates have entered the Kingdom among the thousands of refugees fleeing ongoing violence in their homeland.
Relief agencies point to the abundance of food aid and cash assistance, access to free public education and healthcare and the prospect of being resettled to Europe or North America as among the incentives drawing non-vulnerable Syrian expatriates to Jordan.
According to UNHCR Representative Andrew Harper, denying an individual entry due to doubts over his or her eligibility for refugee status falls "entirely" within a state's rights under the convention.
"We have seen thousands of Syrians enter Jordan for a variety of reasons; some of them are not very clear and some of them are questionable," Harper said.
"We have to make sure that those seeking protection and international assistance are actually in need."
Despite the heightened scrutiny at airport immigration, Jordan continues to keep the northern borders open, relief agencies say, receiving an average of 150-300 Syrians per day. The UNHCR reported 150 new arrivals on Sunday evening alone.
The government has repeatedly denied imposing a new policy restricting the entry of Syrians, with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh stressing that several individuals recently denied entry due to security concerns were "individual cases" and not indicative of a change in policy.
But Syrian opposition groups accuse Amman of turning back and "deporting" dozens of Syrians due to their suspected political activism.
Jordan follows an open-border policy, having granted refuge and access to public to services to some 125,000 Syrians since March, 2011.
Of the total, some 50,000 are classified as vulnerable and in need of emergency assistance and basic aid -- a number the UNHCR forecasts to reach 70,000 by the end of the year.
© Jordan Times 2012
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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