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Rights groups call for Jordan to open border to Syrian refugees, following regime Daraa offensive

Thousands of Syrians have been forced to sleep outdoors following the Daraa offensive [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 27 June, 2018

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A fierce regime offensive in southern Syria has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes, but with the Jordan border closed they remain stuck in the war zone.
Human rights groups have appealed to the Jordanian government to allow Syrians to find refuge over the border, after Bashar al-Assad's regime launched a fierce offensive on opposition areas in the south of the country.

At least 45,000 civilians were forced to flee their homes, when Russian and Assad regime forces launched waves of air raids on Daraa province in an attempt to capture one of the last opposition strongholds in Syria.

Amman has said it cannot cope with more refugees and its border with Daraa will remain closed, as thousands of Syrians flee aerial bombardments and shelling, which have already putting three hospitals out of action.

Jordan government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat told Jordan Times that "we simply cannot receive more" Syrians, with Amman claiming it is already hosting 1.3 million refugees since war broke out in Syria in 2011.

Human rights groups have appealed to Jordan to reverse the decision with the UN warning that at least 750,000 lives are in danger due to the regime's assault.

With the border closed, they remain stuck in a war zone with nowhere else to go.

"Thousands of Syrian families are being pushed towards the Jordan border as a result of the ongoing government offensive," said the Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) acting Regional Director Youri Saadallah.

"Jordan has done so much over the years to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, but unfortunately the international community must rely on it to be generous once more."

Aid workers in Daraa have reported that refugees are often forced to sleep in the open since they fled their homes, while there are serious shortages of food and fuel, the NRC added.

Although Jordan is hosting around 667,000 Syrians, according to official UN figures, the NRC said it is ready to provide any assistance if Amman decides to admit more refugees.

The NRC said that the al-Azraq refugee camp could be developed to host an additional 60,000 Syrians and called on aid agencies and donor countries to provide the support needed to make this happen.

"Jordan cannot be expected to take on the responsibility of accepting more refugees alone, however, and we call on the international community to urgently step up and provide significant additional support," Saadallah added in the press release.

"The fighting in Syria is squeezing people further and further south. They will eventually be left with nowhere else to turn."

Mouna Elkekhia, Amnesty International's Advisor on Refugee and Migrant Rights, said that Daraa residents are in a "desperate life-or-death situation" and that Jordan "cannot simply abandon them".

Jordan closed its border with Syria in June 2016, when a bomb attack killed seven border guards sparking fears of a wider outbreak of Islamic State group militancy.
 
The decision has been disastrous for Syrian refugees who didn't make it over the border in time.

Tens of thousands are trapped on the border living in "deplorable conditions", according to Amnesty International, with little access to food, clean water, shelter, or medical facilities.

Human rights groups have called on Jordan to allow them to access proper humanitarian assistance over the border.

"The Jordanian government must open its border to those fleeing Syria, and the international community must provide full and meaningful support to Jordan and other countries in the region that are hosting large numbers of refugees who have fled from Syria," Elkekhia added.

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