Thousands of Syrian refugees stranded near the closed border with Jordan, including mothers and babies, are running out of food and many need medical treatment, aid workers and refugees said on Wednesday.
Jordan closed its northern border about 10 days ago after offering refuge to hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled violence since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule began in March 2011.
Syrians trying to enter through unofficial border crossings have also been turned back. Jordanian officials have given no explanation for the closure, according to refugees and aid workers who have had first-hand contact with border authorities.
The kingdom has since allowed only a handful of refugees across. Even civilians seeking medical treatment have been turned back, except for the critically wounded, according to aid workers.
Hundreds of refugees from areas as far north as Homs and from violence-torn suburbs of Damascus still arrive daily at the border villages of Nasib and Tel Shehab in southern Syria, a few kilometers from the main routes for entry into Jordan.
Footage has shown refugees including mothers and babies who waited for hours in sweltering heat but were then refused entry by Jordanian army officers.
Frequent shooting from Syrian artillery positions at the official Syrian border crossing close by has prevented large numbers gathering on the frontier, they said.
Inhabitants of border villages seeking shelter from the fierce fighting and shelling were now also heading to other villages where relative calm prevails, instead of crossing the border.
Witnesses said the recent arrivals to these border villages had depleted already minimal food supplies and created a growing humanitarian crisis.
Close to 500,000 Syrian refugees out of a total of 1.5 million Syrians have sought shelter in Jordan, and only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid pledged to help the Syrian refugees has arrived.
The kingdom has received an average of around 1,000 refugees daily since the start of the year.
Jordan has publicly denied it closed the frontier — such an acknowledgement would breach international obligations to keep borders open to refugees, but officials privately say the move signaled it could not absorb any more arrivals.
“There was a need to send a message that the world has failed to pay its dues” to support Jordan, said a senior, anonymous official.