Blog: Palestinian Refugees

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March 21, 2013

Clinic and Human Rights Watch: Obama Should Urge Jordan to Stop Sending Asylum Seekers Back to Syria

Posted by Meera Shah

In a joint press release with Human Rights Watch today, the International Human Rights Clinic called on President Obama to use his visit to Jordan as an opportunity to urge the Jordanian government to stop returning asylum seekers to Syria.

While Jordan has accommodated more than 350,000 refugees since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, it is routinely and unlawfully rejecting Palestinian refugees, single men, and undocumented people seeking asylum at its border with Syria. Based in part on the Clinic’s field research conducted in Jordan and Lebanon over January term, the extended press release documents the difficulties faced by asylum seekers in these categories as they attempt to flee the fighting in Syria.

Below you’ll find the first part of the press release. Here is the full document.

PRESS RELEASE

Jordan: Obama Should Press King on Asylum Seeker Pushbacks

Palestinian Refugees, Single Men, and Undocumented Unlawfully Forced Back to Syria

(New York, March 21, 2013) – Jordan is routinely and unlawfully rejecting Palestinian refugees, single males, and undocumented people seeking asylum at its border with Syria, Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (the Harvard Clinic) said today.

While attention during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Jordan on March 22, 2013 will focus on the large number of Syrian refugees that Jordan has welcomed and accommodated since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, its rejection of these categories of asylum seekers fleeing the violence should not be ignored, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Clinic said.  President Obama should seek assurances from King Abdullah that Jordan will not reject any asylum seekers at its border with Syria. The risks to their lives in Syria are too serious to send anyone back at the present time.

“King Abdullah’s support for 350,000 Syrian refugees deserves President Obama’s praise, but Obama should not give Jordan a free pass to force Palestinian refugees and asylum seekers back to Syria,” said Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Rights Watch. “Jordan should recognize that everyone —  and that includes Palestinian refugees, single men, and undocumented people — has the right not to be forcibly sent back to Syria to face the risk of death or serious harm.”

In two separate trips to Jordan and Lebanon, in January and February, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Clinic conducted in-depth interviews with more than 120 Syrian and Palestinian refugees from Syria. Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Clinic documented that, as a matter of policy, Jordan is turning back people from Syria at its border without adequately considering the risk to them. Such a policy violates the international law principle of nonrefoulement, which forbids governments from returning refugees and asylum seekers to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

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