[This report was issued by Human Rights Watch on 2 October 2017.]
Collective expulsions and individual deportations of Syrian refugees spiked in mid-2016 and again in early 2017, according to an international humanitarian organization. While summary deportations of individual refugees continue at present, fewer cases of extended families being deported were observed by mid-year 2017. However, refugees and international humanitarian workers told Human Rights Watch that family members are increasingly choosing ‘voluntary’ return after the head of household has been deported.
International humanitarian workers said they believed that increasing deportation rates, including the spikes in deportations, are connected to authorities’ response to armed attacks, either directly in reaction to the armed attacks themselves, or as an overall increase in security measures throughout the country following the attacks. These include an attack on Jordanian forces near the northeastern Rukban district in June 2016 that killed seven, and attacks around the southern city of Karak in December 2016 that killed 19. ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks; Jordanian authorities have neither provided evidence that any deportees were involved in any of these attacks nor publicly alleged that they were involved.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 35 Syrian refugees in Jordan and an additional 13 Syrians by telephone whom Jordanian authorities had recently deported to Syria. Those whom authorities deported, or who knew or communicated with others who were deported, consistently said that authorities produced little evidence of wrongdoing before their removal. Jordanian officials also did not give any real opportunity to Syrian refugees to contest their removal or to seek legal help or the assistance of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) prior to their deportation.
Typical of those Human Rights Watch interviewed who were not informed about the reasons for their removal was “Nasser,” a father of eight who fled Syria in February 2012 after his daughter was injured in an attack; he was living in Irbid where she was being treated for her burns. Nasser and his whole family, including his parents, wife, children, and two of his brothers and their families, were all deported in January 2016. He said that the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) twice called him in, along with his 75-year-old father (who has a severe mental disability), to the GID detention center in Irbid, but only asked standard questions, like where he worked and how many kids he had. Later, they called him in a third time:
I came in and they didn’t ask me anything or say anything to me. They detained me, handcuffed me, and kept me in detention for two days. At 10 a.m. two days later, they told me to call my family and my parents and tell them to come meet me at the southern [Irbid] detention center. Once they arrived, they put us in a bus and sent us back immediately. Our parents too were deported, and my brother’s family and my other brother’s family.
I minded my own business. I had UNHCR documentation and we had Jordanian IDs. I had furnished a house, all my stuff remained there, it was all pillaged. They destroyed me and I swear I hadn’t done anything. If I had, I wouldn’t be arguing. But I have no idea why they sent us back. And you know what the situation in Syria is like. Airstrikes and war and death, and there is no treatment there for my daughter with her burned hands.
The Arab Charter of Human Rights, to which Jordan is a party, prohibits collective expulsions “under all circumstances.” The prohibition on collective expulsion is a due process requirement, namely, that each person’s circumstances must be weighed prior to expulsion, whether or not the principle of nonrefoulement has been breached. Jordan is also bound by the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement not to return refugees to places where they would be persecuted or to expose anyone to a real risk of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
While recognizing that Jordan has generously hosted more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, many for six years, and that support from the international community has been inadequate, these factors do not excuse unlawful collective expulsions and the return of refugees to serious risk of persecution, torture, and other human rights violations. Human Rights Watch calls on Jordan to stop the collective expulsion of Syrian refugees, to give individual Syrians suspected of being national security threats a fair opportunity to challenge the evidence against them, and to consider the risk of torture and other severe human rights abuse before returning them to Syria.
[Click here to download the full report in English.]
[Click here to download the full report in Arabic.]