By Hani Hazaimeh, JORDAN TIMES
AMMAN – Since the unrest in Syria began in mid-March, hundreds of Syrian citizens have fled to the Kingdom seeking a safe haven for their families – some made it through the legal channels, but many others had to jump the fence between the two countries.
Unofficial figures put the number of Syrian citizens who have arrived in the Kingdom at more than 2,000 since the violence erupted in their country. The government continues to call them guests and refuses to label them as refugees, as many of them crossed the border illegally. The same policy applied to many Iraqis who fled their war-torn country last decade.
“They do not have a refugee status. Tribal integration is very common between citizens on both sides of the borders and most of the Syrians who made it through are being hosted by their relatives or friends,” former minister of state for media affairs and communications Taher Odwan told The Jordan Times.
According to Ramtha resident Abdulhalim Zu’bi, intermarriage is also another reason Jordanian families are hosting many Syrians in Ramtha.
“There’s an estimate that there have been more than 500 intermarriages between Daraa and Ramtha citizens,” he added.
Despite this fact, scores of Syrian citizens were compelled to cross the borders for different reasons without a valid passport. Some are wanted for their participation in the mass demonstrations calling for the downfall of the Syrian regime, others for fleeing military service.
An official, who spoke to The Jordan Times on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media, said at least 60 Syrian military personnel have arrived in the country since the escalation started, and have been put under heavy security protection, fearing for their lives from Syrian intelligence retaliation.
“They are kept in a well-guarded area and provided with all their needs, including proper accommodation. They are not prisoners or refugees but we cannot let them walk around because they don’t have any IDs, nor do we have any background on their history,” the official said.
The Jordan Times made contact with a Syrian officer, who preferred to remain anonymous. He commended the treatment and the hospitality of the Jordanian government, but stressed that their stay in the Kingdom is temporary and will end as soon as the situation in Syria is back to normal.