As the Islamic State continues to gobble up towns in Syria and northern Iraq, the plight of ordinary people--especially in Syria--has gone from bad to horrible. There are now 3 million registered refugees who have fled the country, according to the United Nations, but avenues of escape seem to be closing down. If you are in Syria, where can you go? The neighbors are Iraq (and many there are trying to flee), Israel (that's not likely to happen), Lebanon (which already hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees, Turkey (which has been very reluctant to accept any more refugees--especially if they are Kurds, and Jordan. The latter also already has a lot of refugees, and the New York Times reports today that there are signs (not confirmed by officials) that the border into Jordan has essentially been closed off to new refugees.
Jordan is refusing to let Syrian refugees cross the border, international refugee agencies said on Wednesday, expressing fear that thousands have been left stranded with limited access to food and other supplies.The explanation offered is that since Jordan has joined the battle against ISIS, there is concern that terrorists will mingle with the refugees and create serious security issues. This seems like a reasonable response on Jordan's part and it is not clear how this will play out.
“We have not recorded any Syrian refugees crossing into Jordan in the past week,” said Andrew Harper, the top official with the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan.
The International Organization for Migration concurred, saying that no Syrians had been transported from the border area to refugee camps in Jordan since Oct. 1, when 44 Syrians crossed over.
One demographic detail in the New York Times report is of particular note: "More than three million Syrians, half of them children, have fled the country’s civil war to neighboring countries." Indeed, the UN data suggest that 52 percent of refugees are under the age of 18, even though about 33 of Syria's population prior to the civil war was under the age of 18. This suggest the clear strategy of families trying to save the children. Those who acted the quickest may be the only ones able to do that, if the implicit quarantine of Syria continues.