(CNN)It’s been a long, painful year for Syria’s 6 million refugees, as well as for Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, which are buckling under the pressure of hosting three quarters of them. But June 21, the longest day of the year, turned out to be particularly drawn out for a group of refugees who have been stuck in the desert at the Jordanian border.
Early that morning, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) slammed a pickup truck packed with explosives into a Jordanian military base on the Syrian border, killing at least six members of the country’s security services
. Within hours, the army declared
the area a “closed military zone” in which “any vehicle and personnel … mov[ing] without prior coordination” would be “treated as enemy targets and … without leniency.”
Jordan is not alone in shutting down its border to Syrians. Human Rights Watch has documented
how Turkey has pushed back thousands of Syrian asylum seekers over the past year, with reports of it shooting dead and injuring some
as they try and reach safety. In fact, 165,000 would-be refugees are now trapped
on the wrong side of the Syrian-Turkey border in camps that have been hit by Syrian airstrikes and overrun by ISIS.
, too, has severely limited the entry of Syrians fleeing the atrocities. The European Union’s efforts to close its own borders to asylum seekers and refugees has sent a powerfully negative message to countries in the region that are already shouldering the lion’s share of responsibility for Syrian refugees.
It’s true that Jordan has already taken in 650,000 registered Syrian refugees
, adding an astonishing 10% to its population. Compare that to the 0.2%
added last year to the European Union’s population as a result of the influx that was widely characterized as a “refugee crisis.”
Jordanian officials have repeatedly said they need more international help to cope with the numbers, adding after the June 21 attack that the 60,000 trapped at Jordan’s closed border are an international problem and not the responsibility of Jordan.
It is actually a shared responsibility; no country should be off the hook. Human Rights Watch and others have repeatedly called
for other countries to increase their assistance to Jordan, resettle greater numbers of Syrian refugees living in Jordan, and respond more generously to the U.N. refugee agency’s budget in Jordan, which is currently only funded at 29%.
But by blocking aid and trapping Syrians at its border, Jordan is punishing children, women and men fleeing the very same atrocities that killed Jordan’s soldiers. While the world clearly has to do more to help Jordan, the authorities should not be putting refugees’ lives at risk by punishing them for the acts of the very forces they have fled, or by using them as bargaining chips for more help.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/opinions/syria-refugees-jordan-border-simpson/index.html