Palestinian refugees who have fled the violence in Syria now feel unwanted and abandoned in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.
The United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said at least 5,000 Palestinians from Syria have been registered in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan since the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad erupted 17 months ago.
Their presence has added to existing tensions in the small countries, which already host large Palestinian populations (in Jordan, nearly half the people are Palestinians).
Samir, a Palestinian refugee who arrived in Jordan from Syria five months ago and is now living in a dormitory, told the U.N.-linked Integrated Regional Information Networks: “It has been quite bad living like a prisoner, especially when you see other people come and go but you are trapped.”
The situation is particularly upsetting to many Palestinians since some have relatives in Jordan whom they cannot go see.
IRIN also noted that Palestinians who hold neither Syrian nor Jordanian citizenship are confined to the camps.
IRIN noted that, ironically, many in the camps are Palestinians who once had Jordanian citizenship — but had such designations were withdrawn a few years ago in an attempt by Amman to discourage Israel from “transferring” (i.e. expelling) Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan.
“I was born in Jordan, but moved with my family to Syria,” Samir said.
“In 1995, they withdrew my citizenship from me and my brother. Although it is my country, I cannot move freely inside along with other people.”
Reportedly, some Palestinians trying to escape Syria have been turned back by Jordanian border troops.
In response to these charges, Samir Maaytah, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs and communications, told IRIN: “Each country has the right to protect its sovereignty. At some point, we did not allow some Syrians to enter Jordan via air, for example, because we have the right to check who is coming in. Jordan should not be questioned over its sovereignty rights.”
Maaytah added: “Turkey, for example, had recently said it needs to regulate how many Syrians are entering its borders. No one has given a reason for it or questioned it.”
Regarding the subject of Palestinians who had their Jordanian citizenship revoked, Maaytah again defended his government: “Whether it is Palestinians or not, those who came without Jordanian or Syrian nationalities. will be given basic rights but any additional benefits are not Jordan’s responsibility,” he said.
“These people came to Jordan seeking security, and Jordan gave it to them.”