Jordan Rejects HRW Accusations of Forced Deportation of Syrians


Amman – Amman rejected on Monday claims by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the country has been “summarily deporting Syrian refugees — including collective expulsions of large families”.

Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said his country was abiding by international law in this regard, calling for accuracy before publishing such reports.

The report, released on Monday, said that the “Syrians are not being given a meaningful chance to challenge their removal and Jordan has not assessed their need for international protection”.

“Jordan is abiding by the international law in this regard…The return of the Syrian refugees is voluntary and in such cases the return is to areas where there is no threat or danger to their lives,” Momani told the local media.

Underlining that the security of the Jordanian borders was above all considerations, the minister noted that his country has offered a lot of help to the Syrian refugees.

According to the 27-page report, the Jordanian authorities deported about 400 registered Syrian refugees each month during the first five months of 2017.

It added that around 300 registered refugees each month returned to Syria during that time under circumstances that appeared to be voluntary.

Another estimated 500 refugees each month allegedly returned to Syria under circumstances that are unclear, the HRW report said.

Bill Frelick, Refugee Rights Director at HRW, was quoted in the report as saying: “Jordan shouldn’t be sending people back to Syria without making sure they wouldn’t face a real risk of torture or serious harm and unless they have had a fair opportunity to plead their case for protection.”

Jordan hosts around 1.3 million Syrian refugees of whom more than 600,000 are registered with the UNHCR.

Jordanian Official: Syrian Refugee Crisis Consumes 5% of GDP


Amman, Brussels– Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhouri, revealed on Monday an agreement with donor countries to hold the Brussels II Conference in the spring of 2018, in order to guarantee continued efforts to mobilize funding in support of countries hosting refugees and to follow up the work progress.

The announcement came during a workshop held in the Dead Sea for sectorial teams representing the twelve sectors covered by the Jordan Response Plan (JRP) to the Syrian ​​crisis.

The European Commission announced in Brussels last week that it would organize the second Brussels conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region in the spring of next year.

EU High Commissioner for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini announced the news during a high-level meeting on the Syrian crisis, on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Jordanian minister said that addressing the Syrian crisis and its repercussions was an international duty that “requires a real and clear commitment, for many years, by donor countries and international institutions”, pointing out that Jordan was carrying out this humanitarian mission on behalf of the international community.

“Over time, burdens are increasing and accumulating,” he said, adding that the financial burden of the Syrian crisis – at an annual rate of $2 billion a year, equivalent to about 20 percent of the total domestic budget revenue, or 5 percent per year of GDP – has directly affected, the living standards, in terms of access to public services and the rise of expenses.”

With regards to funding levels, Fakhouri said that despite their improvement last year, there was a 38 percent gap in 2016, as 62 percent of the needs included in the JRP in 2016 were covered, compared with 30 percent in previous years.

In a statement issued last week, Mogherini said that the EU and the international community would launch the “Brussels Process” that “will put our convening power at the service of the Syrian people”.

“Such work would support the Geneva talks on a political transition, which remains the only viable path towards ending the war and stabilizing the country,” she added.

Aoun Rejects Settlement, Stresses Refugees’ Safe Return to Syria

New York – Lebanese President Michel Aoun stressed the urgent need to organize the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homeland after the situation in most of their first places of residence has stabilized.

In his official address before the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Aoun noted that Lebanon distinguished between “voluntary” and “safe” return, based on the reasons for displacement.

“Some call for the refugees’ voluntary return and we call for their safe return and differentiate between the two concepts,” Aoun noted.

“The claim that they will not be safe should they return to their country is an unacceptable excuse… If the Syrian state is carrying out reconciliation with the armed groups that it is fighting, wouldn’t it be able to do so with refugees who had fled war?” the Lebanese president asked.

He revealed that waves of displacement and refugees had increased Lebanon’s population by 50 percent, citing severe overcrowding, a deteriorating economic situation, and increased crime.

Aoun went on to warn that terrorists had taken shelter among the refugees, making the need to resettle displaced persons to their homelands urgent.

He also underlined Israel’s defiance of international resolutions, especially with regards to the conflict with the Palestinians, and said: “Israeli wars proved that the cannon, the tank, and the plane do not produce solutions or peace.”

He added: “There is no doubt that the crime of expelling the Palestinians from their land cannot be corrected by another crime committed against the Lebanese through the imposition of resettlement.”

Aoun said that terrorism has spread like wildfire to all continents and must be faced at its roots.

“No one knows how far this terrorism will reach and how it will end,” he stated, highlighting Lebanon’s recent victories against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“Lebanon had been able to eliminate cells, as had recently been seen in its victories against ISIS along the border with Syria,” he noted.

IMF Lauds Lebanon Steadiness, Warns of Debts


London- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that the Lebanese economy has shown resilience despite the burden of Syrian refugees escaping the war in their country. Yet, IMF warned Lebanon that it should control the sovereign debts.

Chris Jarvis, an IMF official who led the Washington-based lender’s visit to Beirut this week, stated that the Lebanese economy is known for its resiliency and has succeeded several times in overcoming shocks.

He added that Syrian refugees represent now quarter the Lebanese population and they cause a pressing need to put the economy on a sustainable track and to stop the increase in public debt. “Lebanon’s economic conditions remain challenging and regional spillovers continue to dominate the near-term outlook,” said Jarvis.

“Lebanon has made political progress in recent months with the new electoral law ratified in parliament, paving the way for the first parliamentary elections in eight years. Despite these developments, we expect real growth to remain subdued in 2017,” added the IMF.

Jarvis and the accompanying delegation visited Beirut in Sept. 7-13 to showcase economic and financial developments in Lebanon, to evaluate economic dimensions and to discuss the policies’ priorities.

At the conclusion of the meeting, he said: “My team and I had the privilege of meeting with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Central Bank Governor Riad Salame, Director General of Finance Alain Bifani, Minister of State for Displaced Affairs Mouein Merehbi, and Minister of State for Combating Corruption Nicolas Tueni.”

“Lebanon’s economy is known for its resilience, and it has repeatedly managed to weather significant shocks. To preserve confidence there is an urgent need to place the economy on a sustainable path and halt the rise in public debt. Front-loaded fiscal adjustment is needed based on revenue measures, increasing tax compliance, increasing fuel taxation, and re-balanced spending, including by reducing costly electricity transfers,” he added.

“The authorities can also promote sustainable growth through structural reforms, including by taking steps to improve the business climate. There is a need to improve the institutional framework before undertaking large investment projects and to assess the risks and potential fiscal costs arising from any Public-Private Partnership projects. Passing a budget—the first in more than a decade—with reliable fiscal adjustment measures would send a strong signal of commitment to reduce public debt and will boost confidence.”​ ​

More Than 300 Syrian Refugees Rescued, Arrive in Cyprus

A woman holds her child outside the Kokkinotrimithia refugee camp outside Nicosia

Nicosia – Two boats crowded with 305 Syrian refugees arrived in Cyprus overnight, police said on Sunday, one of the largest group landings of migrants to the island since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.

The vessels were tracked sailing to the north-west of the island and were thought to have set off from the Turkish coastal city of Mersin.

“For their safety they were towed to harbor,” a police spokesman said. One of the vessels had been taking in water, the spokesman added.

Cyprus is the closest European Union member state to Syria, yet many fleeing conflict have largely avoided the island because it has no direct easy access to the rest of the continent.

The single largest group arrival since the Syrian conflict started was 345 people who were rescued in September 2014.

Police said they were questioning a 36-year-old Syrian man believed to have been steering one of the vessels. The others would be taken to a reception center west of the capital, Nicosia.

The Syrians, who included many minors, appeared in good health. A woman and her infant were taken to hospital for precautionary reasons, the spokesman added.

Lebanon: Ministers Disagree over Return of Syrian Refugees

Beirut – Lebanon’s cabinet session held on Wednesday at the Baabda Palace saw disagreements between ministers over the return of the displaced Syrians to their country.

While ministers, who support Bashar Assad, called for cooperation with the Syrian regime to achieve the quick return of refugees, other ministers from the so-called March 14 alliance have rejected any political negotiation with Assad, stressing the need for a return process that would be held under security, political and humanitarian guarantees by the United Nations.

Wednesday’s cabinet session was chaired by President Michel Aoun, and followed tense remarks by ministers, some of whom warned against “handing over the refugees to the regime that had abandoned them, and drove them to flee death.”

However, Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged the March 14 ministers to avoid raising the refugee file during the session, noting at the beginning of the meeting that the issue of communication with the Syrian regime was controversial.

“We want the return of the refugees to their country today before tomorrow, but it is the responsibility of the United Nations, which has to put a safe plan for this return,” Hariri said, adding that an agreement was reached over the need to put the files that create differences aside.

This has not stopped Minister Ali Qanso from stating during the meeting: “Should the Lebanese government fail to cooperate with the Syrian regime, displaced will not return to Syria.”

His comments sparked strong criticism by Minister Michel Pharaon, who told Asharq Al-Awsat that Qanso’s remarks were “provocative and involve threats.”

During the meeting, Hariri announced he would be visiting the United States to meet US President Donald Trump. He will also travel in August to France and Russia on official visits.

For his part, Aoun commended the judiciary to play a key role in reducing security breaches and stressed the need for coordination with the country’s security forces.

In a news conference following the session, Information Minister Melhem Riachi said that the president raised recent security issues in the country, praising the role of the Lebanese Army and the security forces and warned against refugee camps “being transformed into hubs for terrorism.”

UN: Return of Refugees to Syria Should Be Marked with Safety, Dignity

United Nations Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag and Deputy Special Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini meet the press-

United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag reiterated on Wednesday the UN position that any return of refugees to the country of origin be voluntary and be done in conditions of safety and dignity.

Kaag said: “This is a central principle of international law. Whether or not it will be possible to have in Syria in the near future areas where refugees will be willing to go back, it’s something impossible to answer right now. We seem to be far from having it at that level, because the situation remains very fragile and the conflict continues in a very dramatic way.”

Kaag added that there is no talk of the permanent settlement of refugees in Lebanon. “It is always temporary,” she stressed.

In turn, Lazzarini focused on the UN’s support to Lebanon’s stability and socio-economic stabilization, including from the impact of the Syrian crisis and over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“When we met in Brussels (in April), we said collectively what we have done has not been sufficient to reverse the tide. …Hence, we need to have a new approach to complement our collective effort in the country,” he said.

Kaag and Lazzarini were speaking in a dialogue they held with the Beirut-based media on the UN’s role and priorities in Lebanon. The focus was on the UN’s “whole of Lebanon approach” that takes into consideration support for Lebanon’s peace and security, stability, and stabilization.

Special Coordinator Kaag underlined the focus on prevention in the UN’s work for Lebanon. “Prevention is not only conflict prevention. It is more than that. It is really looking at combating poverty, prevention of violent extremism, working with the security apparatus, strengthening in particular respect and compliance with all human rights standards and norms, conventions,” she said.

She also welcomed the progress made in the reactivation and functioning of state institutions following the election of President Michel Aoun and the formation of the government.

“Prevention also means that we continue to seek opportunities to make progress on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701,” Kaag said. She added that she will be briefing the UN Security Council on 20 July on Lebanon as a whole as well as the implementation of resolution 1701. She said one of the messages will be the need for both parties to avoid rhetoric or any step that could lead to miscalculation in a volatile regional environment.

She referred to efforts through the International Support Group for Lebanon, including particularly to support the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Regarding the events of last Friday in Arsal and developments since then, Kaag said, “We are in contact with the Lebanese authorities to ascertain the conditions of arrest but also the demise of four detainees so far. We do not have exact data. But it is also important to remember that the UN condemns all acts of terror or attempts at acts of terrorism.”

There is also always a need to make a clear distinction between militants and civilians and the importance of continued protection and assistance and respect for the human rights of all, she said.

“We extend our continued appreciation and gratitude not only to the Lebanese Armed Forces and Security apparatus but also to the Lebanese people in hosting the Palestine refugees as well as the Syrian refugees. We need also to be mindful of the fact that the refugees are civilians who are being shielded, thanks to Lebanese generosity from conflict just across the border,” Kaag added.

Regarding the funding for Lebanon, Lazzarini said Lebanon received in 2016 about $1.6 billion of international assistance, primarily humanitarian grants but also some development grants. In Brussels, the international community committed the same for 2017, he said. But he noted the slow disbursement of grants and commitments made and stressed the need for predictability.

Syrian Refugees Experience Ramadan in Jordan’s Zaatari Camp


Amman, London – In Jordan’s Zaatari Syrian refugee camp, the markets become crowded before the iftar meal that breaks the fast of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The camp, which used to be a desert area, now resembles an unorganized city that hosts over 85,000 refugees, who fled the war that is tearing apart their country.

Even though it is hard to spend the fasting month away from their country and relatives, many refugees said they have started to adapt to their new life in Jordan.

Amjad, who left his house in Daraa five years ago, said: “Ramadan in our country was better, because we had houses and electricity. We have adapted to the camp’s conditions and the holy month gets better each year.”

The conditions the refugees have to endure are still difficult. The latest statistics released by the UNHCR in 2016 showed that 93 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live under the poverty line, earning $88 per month.

Ziad Rustom, a Syrian refugee and father of six, has been living in the Zaatari camp for five years.

He formed a band for weddings and celebrations in the camp and during Ramadan, he prepares traditional post-iftar juices.

Rustom told Reuters: “Ramadan here and in Syria are the same. Thankfully, we have seen a great turnout. In Syria, I worked in preparing juice for 24 years.”

He explains that he fills over 400 bags of juice per day, and sells each for less than a dollar.

He then distributes the remaining bags to the poor refugees.

Aisha Sayyad, Rustom’s wife believes that it is very hard to adapt to life in the camp.

Jordan currently hosts over 1.4 million refugees. Most of them live in urban areas, while over 100,000 live in camps.

Jordan closed its borders with Syria in May 2013 to prevent more refugees from entering the kingdom because of the insufficiency of water and economic resources.

Saudi Clinics Vaccinate against Epidemics in Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp

At least 92 Syrian refugee children have been vaccinated by Saudi specialized clinics extending humanitarian and medical aid to al-Zaatari camp in Jordan, reported Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Offering a wide-ranging program for medical assistance, the vaccinations were administered as a part of a regular program providing Syrian asylum seekers shots against contagious diseases to prevent the outbreak of epidemic in areas with concentrated populations.

Clinics Director General Dr. Hamed Al-Mufalani said that the Saudi abroad clinics have been providing integrated health care for Syrians in the camp within its medical programs aiming at protecting them from infectious diseases.
Hosting over 83,000 Syrian refugees, the Zaatari is located some 10 kilometers from Mafraq city in Jordan’s Mafraq Governorate.

The camp first opened on July 28, 2012 to host Syrians fleeing the violence in the ongoing Syrian civil war that erupted in 2011.

Earlier in 2017, many refugees registered great approval of the Saudi-led efforts, saying that they highly depended on them for medical assistance.

Medical director of the specialized Saudi clinics, Dr. Hamed Al-Maafalani, said clinics receive Syrian refugees every day, and provide necessary medical services in an organized manner via qualified medical cadres.

The clinics enjoy a good reputation at the camp among other organizations and Syrian refugees, he added.

Moroccan-Algerian Dispute on Syrian Refugees Continues

Casablanca – In response to the Algerian escalation, Morocco published photographs showing the involvement of the Algerian army in the Syrian refugee crisis on its borders.

The images shown on the Medi1TV channel, taken from the Moroccan side of the borders, revealed Algerian military trucks and vehicles likely to be used to transport Syrian refugees that are thrown into the buffer zone along the border between the two countries.

Morocco has summoned the Algerian ambassador to Rabat to express its worry about Algeria’s attempt to expel 55 Syrian who “illegally” entered the country.

In a statement, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said that 55 Syrians tried to enter Morocco from Algerian between 17 and 19 April near the desert town of Figuig after Algerian authorities forced them out.

Rabat condemned its neighbor’s “inhumane behavior” towards the migrants who included “women and children in a very vulnerable situation.”

In response to these accusations, the Algerian Foreign Ministry called in the Moroccan envoy to Algiers later to reject the accusations, saying Moroccan officials had tried to dispatch a group of Syrians over the border from Morocco into Algeria.

“He was given a categorical denial of the false allegations, and it was shown they were totally unfounded and aimed at harming Algeria,” the statement on APS state news agency said.

A human rights source in Figuig told Asharq Al-Awsat that the refugees received aids from the citizens and some humanitarian institutions in the city.

He pointed out that they were 60 in total, including six women and 13 children.

Syrian refugees besieged in that area have been suffering, and many humanitarian and human rights organizations appealed to the authorities of the two countries to end this human tragedy and to find a formula for cooperation to resolve the Syrian refugees’ crisis.