Refugee Politics in the Middle East and North Africa: Human Rights, Safety, and Identity

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Abbas Kadhim. This report was researched and written by a Human Rights Watch researcher. Dinah PoKempner, general counsel, provided legal review. Associate Sandy Elkhoury provided production and proofreading assistance. Grace Choi, publications director; Kathy Mills, publications specialist; Anna Lopriore, creative manager; and Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager, prepared the report for publication.

Human Rights Watch is also concerned about ongoing reports of the refusal to admit Palestinians arriving at the Syria-Jordan border, which also constitutes refoulement. In contravention of its obligations under international law, Jordan banned entry of all Palestinians from Syria in October , denying safe refuge to those trying to flee Syria and rendering the presence of those already in the kingdom illegal, thereby increasing their vulnerability to exploitation, arrest, and deportation. Human Rights Watch has received information from several sources that Jordan is not only denying entry to Palestinians from Syria but that police and security services have stepped up efforts to locate, arrest, and deport Palestinians who entered Jordan from Syria, returning scores of individuals since January The information we received indicates that a number of Palestinians sent back to Syria have been women, elderly, and children, some of them unaccompanied.

Some of those returned to Syria were reportedly Jordanian citizens who were residing in Syria whom Jordanian authorities arbitrarily denationalized prior to their deportation. In early , Human Rights Watch documented eight cases in which Palestinian asylum seekers who had managed to enter Jordan faced refoulement back to dangerous conditions in Syria. In one such case, Mahmoud Murjan and his wife and children were forcibly returned from Cyber City, a detention facility in Jordan where refugees are held, to Syria on September 25, Palestinian refugee camps, including in Aleppo, Daraa, and the Yarmouk camp in south Damascus, have come under attack resulting in civilian fatalities.

Lebanon: New Refugee Policy a Step Forward

The Yarmouk camp, home to the largest Palestinian community in the country before the start of the conflict, was besieged by government forces in December , resulting in widespread malnutrition and in some cases death from starvation. While some relief has entered Yarmouk since then, residents who remain there continue to be denied access to life-saving medical assistance and adequate food supplies. Half of the , Palestinians residing in Syria have reportedly been displaced as a result of the conflict. Palestinians in Syria have also been subject to arbitrary detention and torture by government forces.

In situations of large-scale influx, asylum seekers should be admitted to the State in which they first seek refuge and if that State is unable to admit them on a durable basis, it should always admit them at least on a temporary basis They should be admitted without any discrimination as to race, religion, political opinion, nationality, country of origin or physical incapacity. In all cases the fundamental principle of nonrefoulement — including non-rejection at the frontier — must be scrupulously observed. Moreover, the government of Jordan has repeatedly agreed to uphold its obligation not to return asylum seekers.

We request that the ministry reply to these inquiries on or before May 19, so that we may include the information you provide in a report we are preparing regarding this issue. We would be happy to meet you in Amman to discuss this issue directly. If there is a convenient time to meet, or should you have any questions, your staff can contact directly Jillian Slutzker, Middle East associate, at slutzkj hrw.

Skip to main content. August 7, Summary Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria in , Jordan has welcomed over , refugees seeking safe haven from the bloodshed and fighting there. Recommendations To the Government of Jordan Rescind its non-admittance policy for Palestinians from Syria seeking safe haven in Jordan. Cease detentions solely on the basis of their national origin of Palestinians from Syria seeking safe haven in Jordan.

Cease deportations of Palestinians to Syria because of their national origin. Allow international and local aid agencies to offer humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees from Syria on par with services offered to Syrian refugees. Halt the arbitrary withdrawal of citizenship from Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin.

Restore Jordanian citizenship to all persons who were arbitrarily deprived thereof. Each person deprived of their citizenship should be entitled to a fair hearing, with the right of appeal to the courts if their citizenship remains revoked. Continue to intervene with Jordanian authorities to open the border to Palestinian asylum seekers from Syria and to halt deportations, including by publically condemning such border closings and deportations. Continue to monitor conditions for Palestinians from Syria currently held in Cyber City and those detained in Jordanian detention facilities for entering the country irregularly, and advocate for their release.

In coordination with UNRWA, ensure that Palestinians from Syria have access to humanitarian goods and services on the same basis as other Syrians who find themselves in Jordan. Advocate with the Government of Jordan to rescind the non-admittance policy for Palestinians from Syria and halt all deportations of Palestinians back to Syria. Do not deport Palestinians to Syria based solely on their national origin.

Do not discriminate against refugees and asylum seekers on the basis of national origin. To Israel Allow entry to Palestinian refugees from Syria who wish to return to areas controlled by Palestinian authorities, at least as a temporary measure notwithstanding the result of final status negotiations. To Palestinian Authorities Intervene to press Jordanian officials to halt deportations and to open the border to Palestinian refugees from Syria on the same basis as Syrian nationals, including by publically condemning such border closings and deportations.

Allow entry to Palestinian refugees from Syria who wish to return to areas controlled by Palestinian authorities, at least as a temporary measure notwithstanding the result of final status negotiations. To Countries Providing Refugee Support to Jordan Seek assurances that Jordan will not reject any asylum seekers at its border with Syria or deport any refugees to Syria. Provide humanitarian support to help meet the needs of all refugees and asylum seekers from Syria. Background Prior to the Syrian conflict, approximately , Palestinian refugees resided in Syria, some living in refugee camps and others in Syrian towns and cities, where they enjoyed many of the same rights as Syrian citizens, including access to government services.

Denial of Entry to Palestinians from Syria Prior to April , Jordanian authorities permitted at least 1, Palestinians fleeing from the conflict in Syria to enter the country, and applied to them the same procedures governing entry of Syrian nationals. She said that Jordanian military officers there refused their entry even though they carried valid Jordanian birth certificates and a Jordanian family book: When we crossed the border some Jordanian army officers tried to help us, but then others came and refused to let us enter.


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The Free Syrian Army [an armed opposition group] took us and put us in a mosque in Daraa. He said: When we left we went to [the Syrian border village] Nassib, the Free Syrian Army saw us and said we cannot enter. We entered anyway and when we got to Jordan we showed them our Palestinian-Syrian ID cards and they put us aside … then an officer said he would take us back to Syria. We went back with the Free Syrian Army. After we arrived to an area with gardens, the smuggler let us out and told us to walk down a dirt path, saying that we would find a Jordanian car waiting for us on the other side of the border.

We walked about meters and then arrived to an area with two sets of dunes that marked the border. As we were crossing the Jordanian army started firing at us. We all laid down flat on the ground to avoid the gun fire. After some moments two trucks with army officers came to us, before we knew what was happening an army officer shot five of us in our legs.

Arrest and Deportation of Palestinians from Syria Prior to April , approximately 1, Palestinians entered Jordan, most of whom were Jordanian citizens, or non-citizens whom the authorities detained upon entry at temporary refugee holding facilities and allowed to leave once they found a Jordanian guarantor to bail them out. Arrest and Deportation of Palestinians with Jordanian identification papers Arrests and deportations were not limited to Palestinians registered in Syria but also extended to Palestinians from Syria who had Jordanian identification papers.

He did not believe his father had any involvement in the events of Black September: [52] When we entered Jordan in , [my sister], [my brother] and I went to the Civil Status Department to apply for new Jordanian ID cards … We wanted to get a national ID number. We were then taken to Cyber City, where we have been for one year and two months. Shrinking Space: Regional Push Backs of Palestinians from Syria Jordan is not the only country in the region that denies safe haven to Palestinians fleeing the violence in Syria or restricts their entry.

Refugee Politics In The Middle East And North Africa - Human Rights Safety And Identity hardcover

According to the March SNAP report: In , [Palestinians from Syria] faced increasingly targeted restrictions in seeking entry and asylum, as well as escalating hostility in host countries and communities, particularly in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. This has caused many [Palestinians from Syria] to take greater risk in reaching Europe via land and sea routes with smugglers.

Under the new policy the Ministry also announced that Palestinians from Syria in Lebanon would no longer be able to renew or extend visas that had previously been obtained automatically at the border On May 4, the Lebanese government forcibly returned about three dozen Palestinians to Syria via the Masnaa border crossing. Legal Standards Nonrefoulement in international refugee law is the principle that a state cannot return a refugee or asylum seeker to a country where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

It said: Over the last decades, the country has given shelter and protection to many waves of refugees; Jordan, as a long-standing host country, reiterates its commitment to fulfilling its obligations in accordance with the principles of international refugee law including those which are peremptory as well as international human rights law. Acknowledgements This report was researched and written by a Human Rights Watch researcher. Thanks go to all the Palestinians who shared their stories with us.

Appendix May 5, His Excellency Lt. How do these differ from rules, practices, or procedures that govern the treatment of non-Palestinian asylum seekers in Jordan? Which Jordanian government agency is responsible for ordering deportation of Palestinian asylum seekers from Jordan to Syria? Which Jordanian government agency carries out deportation of Palestinian asylum seekers? How many Palestinians has Jordan forcibly returned to Syria since ?

Of these, how many were women, children, and elderly people? Do Jordanian authorities allow Palestinian asylum seekers to challenge their deportations? If so, what are the procedures or rules that govern challenging a deportation order in Jordan? How many Palestinians from Syria has Jordan stripped of Jordanian citizenship? On what basis did Jordan authorities remove the nationality of Palestinians residing in Syria? Which Jordanian government agency is responsible for removing the nationality of Palestinian asylum seekers?

Did this agency receive approval from the prime minister to remove nationality of Palestinian asylum seekers? Which Jordanian government agency is responsible for unaccompanied children? How many unaccompanied children has Jordan deported? What procedures does the Jordanian government follow in cases of unaccompanied children? We look forward to your response. Topic Refugee Rights. Summary Recommendations Methodology I. Background II. Legal Standards Acknowledgements Appendix.

Most Viewed August 7, News Release. June 21, Report. August 27, Report. It has also hindered their ability to register marriages and births, leaving tens of thousands of Syrian children born in Lebanon at risk of statelessness. An inability to work has exacerbated poverty among refugees, leading to increased child labor and early marriages. The lack of legal status has also left refugees vulnerable to a range of abuses, including labor exploitation and sexual abuse , unable to turn to the authorities for protection for fear that police may arrest them for expired residency.

In , Human Rights Watch found that half of the nearly , Syrian school-age children registered with UNHCR in Lebanon were not getting a formal education, and that lack of residency was a key barrier. Lebanese authorities have not published any statistics on the number of Syrian refugees without legal status, but the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan , published in January , estimates that 60 percent of those over age 15 lack legal residency, compared with 47 percent in January At a February donors conference in London, Lebanon committed to a review of existing regulatory frameworks related to residency conditions and work authorizations for Syrians.

General Security and aid groups operating in Lebanon should publicize the new policy broadly so that eligible Syrian refugees can benefit from the fee waiver, Human Rights Watch said.

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Human Rights Watch found that General Security offices have applied residency policies inconsistently, including by requiring refugees registered with UNHCR to obtain a sponsor and by requiring Syrians to sign a pledge not to work, even after this requirement was dropped in Lebanese authorities should ensure that the new fee waiver policy is applied consistently by all General Security offices in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch said.

The residency renewal announcement comes amid troubling public statements about the possible return of refugees, including reports of negotiations between Hezbollah and Syrian opposition forces to return refugees from Lebanon to Syria.


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This policy risks cementing a category of refugees without residency who would be highly vulnerable to any forced returns. Conditions in Syria do not permit the creation of safe zones and any forcible or coerced return of refugees would be illegal under international law, whether or not the Syrians have residency status or are registered with UNHCR. Refugees are entitled to protection and should not be forced to return to countries where they face persecution.