Jordan urged to expedite security screening of Syrians in Azraq Camp
AZRAQ REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan: About 8,500 Syrians are still locked up behind barbed wire in a no-go section of Jordan's secondlargest refugee camp — despite initial assurances in 2016 that the arrangement is temporary, a coalition of aid groups said.
The Jordan INGO Forum, an alliance of 60 non-governmental groups, asked Jordan to expedite security screenings, saying that at the current pace it would take until October 2020 to empty out Azraq camp's fenced-in “Village 5.”
Forum coordinator Yannick Martin said Tuesday that the international community must commend Jordan for its efforts in hosting refugees, but that “a frank dialogue needs to take place on continuous restrictions of movement that Syrian refugees face.”
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Momani said security vetting is up to the task and that refugee camps were set up to allow international aid agencies to provide the best possible services.
About 20 percent of Jordan's 665,000 registered Syrian refugees live in three camps, the rest in host communities. Jordan says the actual number of Syrians in the kingdom is 1.3 million.
Jordan has said its policies are dictated by security concerns, including external and internal dangers posed by militants, mainly Daesh extremists based in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
Jordan argues that it shoulders a disproportionately heavy refugee burden, and that the international aid it receives routinely falls short of pledges made by donors.
“Jordan has taken more refugees than the whole continent of Europe,” Momani said. “So it's really unjustified and unacceptable for anyone to question or criticize the way Jordan is dealing with the refugees which we think is second to none in comparison to all countries in the world.”
Visiting European leaders have gone out of their way to praise Jordan's contribution, especially since a 2016 policy shift toward trying to encourage refugees to remain in the region and to slow their influx to Europe.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier echoed such views after a visit to Azraq on Monday.
Asked by The Associated Press about Village 5 and Syrians stranded in harsh conditions on the border, Steinmeier said that “much can be improved, much needs to be done through international aid, but I believe it's not justified to come with big complaints against Jordan.”
“Of course, we have spoken repeatedly in the past with Jordan about the need to provide aid to those on the (border) berm, but I believe we should show restraint with complaints about countries like Jordan, which truly carry the biggest burden of the refugee influx from Syria,” said Steinmeier.