Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees
AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.
The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.
Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.
The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.
“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”
The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces.
Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.
Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.
The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.
The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.
A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.
Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.
But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.
The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.
But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.