(NEW YORK) – The international community must do more to help the increasing number of refugees fleeing across borders as they try to escape the ongoing bloodshed and violence in Syria, Amnesty International said in a briefing Wednesday that raised concerns about Syrians being stopped at borders.
Many have sought safety in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. However, these countries say that the long-term hosting of refugees is putting a strain on resources, as Syrians try to reach refugee camps in neighboring countries.
“Neighboring countries must keep their borders open to all refugees fleeing Syria, without discrimination,” said Charlotte Phillips, refugee researcher at Amnesty International. “Under no circumstances should people be forcibly returned to Syria, where there continues to be violence, bloodshed, and human rights abuses on a massive scale.”
In February, Amnesty International visited three provinces in Turkey bordering Syria and conducted interviews with refugees, Turkish authorities, and national and international organizations.
“While Turkey hosts and assists almost 200,000 refugees in government-run refugee camps, steps need to be taken to ensure that refugees living outside camps have access to essential services,” said Phillips.
Despite Turkey’s stated “open door policy,” many refugees attempting to cross into the country have been stopped, leaving people stranded inside Syria in terrible conditions. Credible reports have also emerged of refugees being forced to return to Syria.
“The responsibility to protect and assist refugees from Syria needs to be shouldered by both the international community and neighboring countries,” said Phillips. “In the face of this mounting crisis, the international community must act now to provide badly needed financial and technical assistance in order to support the efforts made by Syria’s neighboring countries.”
The briefing makes a number of recommendations to the international community, Turkey, and other neighboring countries.
Turkey – According to the United Nations, as of April 17, some 291,996 individuals from Syria were hosted in Turkey – an increase of almost a third since the start of 2013. However, the Turkish authorities estimate the number of Syrians who have fled to Turkey to be as high as 400,000, approximately 190,000 of whom are accommodated in 17 government-run refugee camps in eight provinces.
Jordan – According to the U.N., as of April 21, there were 437,205 Syrian refugees registered or waiting to be registered. Amnesty International has raised concerns over reports of the return of some individuals seeking refuge in Jordan and denial of entry to the country to others. Violent protests have been reported as refugees demonstrate against poor conditions in refugee camps.
Lebanon – As of April 18, 428,649 Syrians were registered or were awaiting registration as refugees in Lebanon. On April 20, a Lebanese minister stated that the country had “exceeded its ability to absorb them.” Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria face discriminatory entry requirements imposed by the Lebanese authorities, namely the obligation to pay a $17 entry permit.
Iraq – As of April 20, 133,840 refugees were registered in Iraq, with the majority being hosted in the Kurdish region. Domiz refugee camp, located in the Dohuk governorate of the Kurdish Region, is said to be “critically congested” with instances of 15 or more refugees having to share a single tent.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.