Jordan halts deportation of Syrian refugees for joining pro-Gaza protests

Jordan halts deportation of Syrian refugees for joining pro-Gaza protests
Jordan released two Syrian refugees who were slated to be deported back to Syria, after an outcry from rights groups.
3 min read
31 May, 2024
The arrest of the two Syrian refugees comes against the backdrop of the Jordanian government's crackdown on pro-Palestine activism in the country. [Getty]

Jordan released two Syrian refugees — Atieh Abu Salem and Wael al-Ashi on Wednesday — after more than a month of detention, reversing its decision to deport them back to Syria where they faced imminent danger.

Abu Salem, a 24-year-old Syrian university student, was arrested while on his way to film a pro-Gaza protest. Ashi was arrested after police raided his apartment due to suspicions that his roommates participated in pro-Gaza protests, despite al-Ashi not taking part in them himself.

Abu Salem was held in administrative detention without being charged with a crime nor facing a judge, he later launched an eight-day hunger strike to protest his deportation prior to release.

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Abu Salem was released after the governor of Amman cancelled his deportation decision, the same authority which had issued it. He was also issued a "bail" of US$98,000 which he would have to pay if he is re-arrested.

"No charges were brought against Abu Salem, and he was not brought to [a judge], so there is no case currently," Ahmad Sawai, Abu Salem's lawyer, told The New Arab.

The initial decision to deport the two Syrians despite their status as registered refugees was met with an outcry from rights organisations. Both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International warned that the opposition activists would be in danger from Syrian regime forces upon return to Syria.

Rights organisations regularly document violations against returnees to Syria, including arbitrary detention, torture and even murder from security forces.

Jordan hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees that fled the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown against protesters and opposition factions in the wake of the 2011 Syrian revolution.

Jordan has deported a few refugees to Syria, usually by sending them to al-Rukban, a small refugee camp in the no-man's land between Syria and Jordan.

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Rights groups have warned that returning refugees to Syria where they face a credible danger violates Jordan's obligations under international law.

The arrest of Abu Salem and al-Ashi came as part of a greater crackdown by the Jordanian government against pro-Palestine protesters.

Many of the protesters were put in administrative detention, which allows authorities to arrest individuals without actually charging them with a crime.

There have been intermittent protests in Amman against Israel's war on Gaza, which has killed over 36,000 Palestinians – the vast majority of which are women and children. Israel launched the war in response to Hamas's surprise attack on 7 October, which killed around 1,150 Israelis.

Protesters have called on the Jordanian government to cancel its 1994 peace treaty with Israel and to cut off all economic ties with the country.

Jordan has arrested hundreds of protesters, activists and at least six journalists for their involvement in pro-Palestine activities. HRW has called on the government to stop the detention of protesters and for it to protect the right to freedom of assembly and expression.