Jordan's PM warns of "catastrophic" refugee crisis as Turkey denies deportations

Published March 28th, 2013 - 02:23 GMT
Jordan's Prime Minister-designate warned of a potential catastrophe if his country reaches a total of one million refugees (Photo UNHCR/ B. Sokol)
Jordan's Prime Minister-designate warned of a potential catastrophe if his country reaches a total of one million refugees (Photo UNHCR/ B. Sokol)

Jordan's Prime Minister-designate, Abdullah Ensour, has said that should one million Syrian refugees seek safety in his country, the situation would be "catastrophic," according to reports in the state-backed Jordan Times. 

Ensour made the comments during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.

Government figures suggest 450,000 Syrians are currently residing in Jordan. However, if the current rate of influx continues, the one million mark would be reached by the end of this year, putting a huge strain on the Kingdom.

Signs of strain are already beginning to show with refugees in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border, rioting on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. Violence flared after residents were banned from returning to Syria, following reports of attacks along the 370km border, according Ali Bibi, a UNHCR liaison officer.

The past few days have seen renewed clashes in the border region, with rebels from the Free Syrian Army seizing control of the Jaber crossing, Syria's main conduit to its southern neighbor.
Violence also flared up at a camp in Turkey. Syrians threw rocks at police after complaining about poor living conditions in the vast tented city near the Turkish border. Police responded with tear gas, according to Reuters. .

Earlier reports of up to 600 Syrians being forcibly deported have so far been denied by the country's foreign ministry.

" Some people have returned since last night, the numbers are closer to 50 or 60, and yes some of these may have been involved in the provocations from yesterday but they returned of their own free will," foreign ministry spokesman, Levent Gumrukcu, said on Thursday.

Speak to the British newspaper, the Guardian, the UNHCR expressed concern that Turkey may have broken international  law over possible deportations. 

 "We are very concerned that there are allegations of possible deportations from the camp in the past day. That would be a breach of international law," Sybelle Wilkes, a spokesperson for the UN agency said in an interview. 

In Jordan, some members of parliament are beginning to question whether the country can continue hosting such large numbers of Syrians and have asked for buffer zone to be created within Syria to house refugees, while one member of parliament demanded Qatar set up their own refugee camps.

The conflict in Syria has forced over one million people to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring countries, a figure previously expected to be reached by the end of June. The one-millionth refugee was registered by the UNHCR in early March.

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