Amnesty: 75,000 refugees trapped on Syria-Jordan border

Satellite images and footage showing makeshift graveyards reveal plight of stranded refugees, Amnesty says.

grave site rukban camp syrian refugees
A graveyard site at Syrian-Jordan border [Screenshot from Tribal Council of Palmyra video/Amnesty International]

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees remain stranded in worsening humanitarian conditions at the border with Jordan, where “food is running out and disease is rife”, according to Amnesty International.

In a new report published on Thursday, the rights group said about 75,000 Syrian refugees have been cut off from humanitarian aid for two months in an area between the two countries known as the Berm.

Jordan sealed the Rukban and Hadalat border crossings with Syria and severely restricted humanitarian access to the Berm after six of its soldiers were killed in a car bomb explosion near the area on June 21. 

The trapped refugees face acute food shortages and have no access to proper healthcare, said Amnesty, which also released video footage and satellite image showing makeshift graveyard sites and a dramatic increase in the number of shelters.

Only one delivery of food aid was made to the refugees early last month, with the food supplies now coming to an end, according to the UK-based group.

READ MORE: Syrian refugees stuck on Jordan border ‘have nothing’

A man by the name of Abu Mohamed, who has been living in the informal camp at Rukban for five months, said the situation has been gravely deteriorating. 

“The humanitarian situation is very bad. The situation of children in particular is very bad. We have drinking water but hardly any food or milk … [it] is awful,” he told Amnesty. 

As a result of the lack of aid and sanitation, about 19 people have died due to the outbreak of hepatitis in the camp and childbirth-related deaths that could have been prevented, the aid group said. 

“There are no health services in the camp at the moment,” Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s Crisis Response director, told Al Jazeera. 

“We have heard directly from people inside the Berm that at least nine people have died in child birth-related deaths; whether that be women or infant children, as well as 10 people who have died from complications associated with hepatitis.”

“These are issues that could be dealt with if a full humanitarian response was allowed to continue,” she added. 

READ MORE: Syrian refugees suffering on Jordan’s border

Jordan has previously cited security concerns for its decision to seal the border after the June attack, despite the continuing influx of Syrian refugees into the area. 

At the Rukban refugee camp, the overall number of shelters rose from 368 a year ago to 6,563 in late July 2016, and most recently increased to 8,295 in September 2016, according to Amnesty. 

Satellite imagery also showed two grave sites near the tents of the camp and a dramatic increase in population density.

There are currently some 650,000 Syrian refugees registered by the UN in Jordan, although the Jordanian government gives higher estimates, and Amnesty decried the international community’s failure to address the crisis.

“I think everybody [international community] … is subscribing to this fear narrative that is at the expense of their international obligations,” said Hassan. 

“We really can’t just point the finger at Jordan on this. The entire situation at the Berm is a snapshot of the global failure of refugees among the international community. 

“We have seen a paralysis at the international level where states who can afford to take in refugees just refuse,” she continued, adding that countries such as the US, the UK and the EU bloc need to start “lessening the burden on countries who have thus far borne the brunt of the refugee crisis”. 

The call for the international community to step up its response comes ahead of several high-level United Nations meetings to discuss the refugee crisis in New York next week. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies