Burns Should Address Syrian Refugee Protection with Jordanian Leaders

Washington, D.C. – As Deputy Secretary of State William Burns meets with Jordanian authorities, Human Rights First urges him to raise the barriers preventing some refugees of the Syrian conflict from crossing to safety in Jordan. During these meetings, Burns is likely to express appreciation for Jordan’s hosting large numbers of refugees, and he should re-commit the United States to significantly stepping up its resettlement initiatives. Jordan is currently hosting almost 600,000 Syrian refugees.

“As a result of restrictions, particularly along Jordan’s western border, many Syrians are blocked from crossing to safety and must instead endure arduous and dangerous journeys to escape Syria,” said Human Rights First’s Duncan Breen.

Burns should use his visit to Jordan to make clear that while the United States is committed to supporting Jordan, it also expects Jordan to comply with human rights and international refugee protection standards and not unfairly deny protection to some of those in need.

The United States has so far provided $300 million in bilateral budget support to Jordan, as well as over $30 million to assist with the strains on the water and education systems. That funding is in addition to significant humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Syria’s other neighbors. However, Human Rights First notes that the United States can do more to help protect Syrian refugees and support Syria’s neighbors by stepping up its resettlement efforts.

“The United States has a proud tradition of leading the world in refugee resettlement, but so far has resettled less than 100 Syrians since the crisis began,” noted Breen. “While other countries have collectively stepped up by committing to resettle up to 18,000 refugees, the United States has so far made no specific commitment.”

As more Syrian refugees realize that a swift return home may not be possible, the U.S. government should  make a firm commitment to resettle at least 15,000 Syrian refugees each year, which would encourage other countries to also receive more Syrian refugees. However, U.S. resettlement efforts are also stymied by other barriers, such as overly broad inadmissibility provisions of U.S. immigration law which threaten to impede resettlement of refugees who present no security risk. The Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security should act now to proactively address these unintended and unjust impediments to resettlement in order to prevent some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees from being denied access to protection in the United States.

Human Rights First researchers recently visited Jordan, where they interviewed dozens of refugees including some seeking protection who had initially been turned away at Jordan’s borders. These interviews were compiled into a report with recommendations for the U.S. government, Refuge at Risk.


Published on January 27, 2014


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