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.

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