Kerry Trip to Jordan Should Affirm U.S. Commitment to Syrian Refugees, Importance of Access to Protection
New York City – As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Amman, Jordan to discuss a range of bilateral issues, Human Rights First urges him to speak publicly about the Syrian refugee crisis and to stress the importance of allowing civilians fleeing the violence in Syria to access protection in states neighboring Syria and beyond.
Human Rights First researchers are in the region assessing the challenges facing Syrian refugees. In Jordan, they interviewed over 50 refugees last week, and met with numerous aid workers and other key stakeholders before traveling to Turkey.
“Secretary Kerry should praise Jordan and other states in the region for hosting large numbers of refugees who have fled from Syria,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer, who is just back from the fact-finding trip. “As the crisis in Syria rages on it is now as important as ever that Syria’s neighbors and other states – in the region and beyond – not turn away civilians fleeing the conflict who warrant access to international protection. Secretary Kerry should also affirm U.S. commitment to providing humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees and at-risk civilians inside Syria, and urge other states to step up to help this underfunded need, which is becoming even more acute as winter approaches.”
Over 4.25 million people have been displaced inside Syria according to recent estimates, and over 2 million Syrians who have fled the country have been registered or are awaiting registration in neighboring countries. The two humanitarian appeals to address the needs of civilians inside Syria and refugees outside Syria remain underfunded – which is resulting in humanitarian agencies being unable to provide essential aid. U.N. figures show that over 800,000 Syrian refugees are registered or awaiting registration in Lebanon, over 550,000 in Jordan, over 500,000 in Turkey, and nearly 200,000 in Iraq.
While in Jordan Secretary Kerry should also welcome statements by the Jordanian government, in which they have committed to keep the borders open to those fleeing the conflict, and should urge that Jordan and other states take steps to ensure that civilians fleeing the violence in Syria are not turned away from any border or entry point. He should also affirm U.S. commitment to providing development aid to help refugee-hosting communities address challenges in accessing education and medical care as well as other infrastructure needs.
Human Rights First notes that while states in the region deserve praise for hosting many refugees who have fled the violence and persecution in Syria, Syria’s refugees face a number of challenges including:
- The desperate need for more humanitarian assistance to address basic needs, particularly for those outside of camps;
- The need for development assistance to refugee-hosting communities as they struggle to provide education and medical care to their own populations as well as to refugees;
- The difficulties that many Syrian refugee children face in accessing education, including limited access to some schools in the region as well as challenges paying costs of school materials and transportation;
- The inability of refugees to work legally in order to support themselves and their families, and the detention and threat of deportation of some Syrian and other refugees for working without permission; and
- A range of restrictive border practices in the region and beyond that are leading some civilians fleeing the violence in Syria to be denied access to international protection. In Jordan, for instance, access at borders has been regularly denied to Iraqi refugees fleeing from Syria, Palestinians who had their former habitual residence in Syria, and some single Syrian men, and there have been cases of women and children being blocked or turned away from borders.