Jordan denies entry for Syrian refugees trapped in Rukban camp

Foreign Minister calls for dismantling of the camp and accuses it of harbouring terror cells

FILE - This file picture taken Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, shows an overview of the informal Rukban camp, between the Jordan and Syria borders. Statements issued by the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said their joint convoy reached Rukban camp and would deliver assistance to 50,000 people The convoy was supposed to arrive last week but was delayed due to logistics and security concerns. The U.N. said the operation is expected to take three to four days. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh, File)
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Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has said his country will not allow Syrian refugees trapped inside the Rukban camp to enter its territory, as urgent appeals were made to contain the camp’s deteriorating conditions.

The camp is home to some 50,000 residents who are trapped inside after Jordan closed its border with Syria following an attack on its soldiers by ISIS in 2016. Desperately needed aid deliveries have repeatedly failed or been postponed.

Mr Safadi said on Saturday night that Jordan will not allow the entry of any person across its borders, and called for the dismantling of the camp.

"The continued existence of Rukban camp is a threat to our national security," Mr Safadi said, adding that terror cells from the camp have carried out terror acts in Jordan years ago.

"Jordan has paid the price, we’ve had many martyrs as a result of terrorist operations launched from the camp,” he said.

The development follows a statement issued by the camp’s administration to the Jordanian authorities urging them to "look with compassion towards the displaced people”.

The Jordanian minister said that the camp should be dismantled and that its final status be ended, accusing the camp of harbouring ISIS fighters.

On the other hand, Mr Safadi pointed out that Amman provides water and medical treatment for the displaced civilians.

Mr Safadi said that Syria and the United Nations should bear the responsibility for the camp.

On the fate of the displaced, he said that the residents inside the camp are now able to return to their cities and villages voluntarily and with Syrian-Russian coordination.

Residents inside the camp told The National that they will be protesting on Sunday against the camp's poor conditions and Jordan's decision.

“We will go out and protest, we must ensure our voices are heard,” Ahmed Ali said.


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Mr Ali appealed for the international community to protect the residents inside the camp, adding that displaced people are the most vulnerable.

“There has been accusations that ISIS or terrorists are hiding inside the camp, but the UN was able to check for terror activities,” Mr Ali said.

A number of US-backed rebel groups, including the Pentagon-backed Maghawir Al Thawra, have been responsible for overseeing security in the camp.

Earlier this month, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels were cracking down on ISIS sleeper cells in the camp.

But a planned US withdraw from Syria has raised questions over whether or not these groups will have the resources to continue to monitor the area. It has also raised alarm over the possibility of an ISIS resurgence in parts of the Syrian desert near Rukban, where the groups operate.
"We were shocked to hear that the US is withdrawing from the camp, there's many reports that other states are going to enter and secure the camp but we are still waiting to hear what will happen," Mr Ali said.