About 75,000 Syrian refugees have not been getting humanitarian aid for two months in the area at the border with Jordan, international human rights organisation Amnesty International said in a report on Thursday.
Humanitarian assistance to the Berm, the Moroccan wall of Western Sahara, halted completely when Jordan sealed the Rukban and Hadalat border crossings with Syria after seven border guards were killed in an attack in June, said the Amnesty International.
Only one food delivery was made in August for 75,000 refugees living in an informal camp. Video footage and satellite images have shown refugees makeshift grave sites inside a desert no man’s land between Jordan and Syria.
"The humanitarian situation is very bad. The situation of children, in particular, is very bad. We have drinking water but hardly any food or milk … [it] is awful," Abu Mohamed, a refugee, told Amnesty. Abu has been living in the camp in Rukban for five months.
“Many people have died… They distributed just rice and lentils and a kilo of dried dates, but that was all for a whole month, they gave us nothing but that. The mood among the people in Rukban is below zero," he added.
Poor hygiene and sanitary conditions have added to the misery by leading to an outbreak of hepatitis which has claimed 19 lives so far.
Aid workers have also reported that at least nine childbirth-related deaths took place since 21 June.
Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs Mohammed al-Momani told the rights group that the border was closed due to 'security concerns', which also halted humanitarian operations at the berm.
“The area around the Berm is becoming a Daesh enclave,” he told the UK-based group.
Al-Momani said Jordan is lending help and has also called on the United Nations to do their bit for the refugees.
According to the human rights group, the UN is negotiating plans with the Jordan to allow humanitarian operations to resume by shifting the distribution points some 2 km into the no man's land area,
“There is no question that security is an important consideration, but protecting people in Jordan should not come at the expense of providing humanitarian assistance and protection to those desperately in need,” said Tirana Hassan, crisis response director at Amnesty International.
Jordan carries out rigorous screening and registration processes prior to allowing refugees in their country. The authorities can use these processes again to open their doors to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, while keeping security measures in check.
“Whether aid is distributed at the berm’s edge or 2km away does not change the fact that there are tens of thousands of people seeking international protection on Jordan’s doorstep, nor does it absolve the authorities’ obligation to offer a safe haven to those fleeing conflict and persecution,” said Tirana Hassan.
“Directly or indirectly forcing refugees to return to Syria by refusing access and imposing intolerable living conditions on them is a flagrant violation of Jordan’s international obligations. The authorities must allow unfettered humanitarian access to refugees who are trapped,” she said.
At the Rukban refugee camp, the overall number of shelters rose from 368 a year ago to 6,563 in late July 2016, and most recently increased to 8,295 in September 2016, according to the report.