U.S.-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) first reported Monday that the government of Jordan sent Syrian refugees back to their war-torn homeland, including unaccompanied minors and wounded civilians.
According to HRW’s report, Jordanian police raided and closed a treatment center, in the city of Ramtha near the border with Syria, where 12 refugees were receiving regular medical care. They then forced the group, which included six paralyzed men and two children, to go to private residences in the Syrian border town of Deraa, where they lacked access to the medical help they needed.
In recent weeks, the area surrounding Deraa has seen significant territorial gains for the al-Qaida-linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra.
HRW recounted that one of the deportees, a 17-year-old seeking treatment for an eye injury, was not given a reason for his deportation, or a chance to contact the official UN refugee agency. Jordanian spokespeople alleged that the center was closed for operating without government oversight or locally licensed personnel, although it had functioned for over 2 years without complaint.
In another incident, authorities shot at a group of five Syrian teenagers, all of whom were officially registered as refugees with the UN, as they rode motorcycles in full daylight. One, whose right leg was injured, received treatment in Jordan, but the others were rounded up and sent across the border into Syria.
The repatriation of refugees is a violation of an international legal principle known as “non-refoulement.” The principle arose in the wake of many Western nations’ failure to shelter those fleeing persecution and genocide under the Nazis during the Second World War.
Jordan, long considered a safe haven from refugees from around the Middle East, is currently home to over 600,000 Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country, constituting a full 10 percent of Jordan’s total population. The Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, established in 2012, is now the country’s fourth-largest city.
Other significant refugee populations in Jordan include Palestinians and Iraqis, the latter including families and individuals displaced by ISIS earlier this year. (RELATED: These Three Charities Are Helping Christian Victims Of ISIS)
While Jordan is not a signatory to the international treaties governing refugees, it has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. HRW points out that under this measure, Jordan is obligated the provide a child refugee, “whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person” with “appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance.”
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