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75,000 Syrian Refugees Trapped, Dying Near Border, Amnesty Says

  • Henry Ridgwell

Around 75,000 refugees are stranded in a no-man's land on the Syria-Jordan border, and hundreds are dying because they are cut off from food and medical aid, Amnesty International said Friday.

The alert came ahead of two high-profile summits in the United States on the global refugee crisis.

The human rights group obtained rare video footage from the border area showing upturned rocks scattered across the desert landscape — makeshift graves that mark the untold suffering of tens of thousands of refugees seemingly forgotten by the outside world.

In less than a year, the number of people stranded on this desolate frontier has soared from a few hundred to its present level.

"People that we were able to speak to described some really desperate conditions," Amnesty's Sara Hashash told VOA. "They said food is running out, diseases are spreading, some people are dying because of preventable illnesses. And what's truly tragic is that if they really did have access to medical care, some of those people's lives would be saved."

The border between Syria and Jordan, known as the "berm," has been closed since June, when six Jordanian soldiers were killed in a suicide car bomb attack by suspected Islamic State militants. Hashash said the added border security was understandable, but Jordanian authorities must abide by humanitarian law.

"At the very least, in the interim what they need to be doing is allowing humanitarian operations at the berm area on that Syrian-Jordan border to resume," she said.

FILE - Syrian refugees wait to be approved to get into Jordan, in the Hadalat reception area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, Jan. 14, 2016.

FILE - Syrian refugees wait to be approved to get into Jordan, in the Hadalat reception area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, Jan. 14, 2016.

Supplied by cranes

In early August, the U.N.'s World Food Program used huge cranes to drop a month's worth of food and medical aid over the sandy ridge that separates the two countries, but that has now run out.

U.N. Special Envoy Angelina Jolie highlighted the plight of the stranded refugees on a trip to Jordan earlier this week.

"Jordan has been warning for years that they would reach a point where they, on their own, could do no more. The world has known about the situation in the berm for months, but no solution has been put forward. This is symptomatic of a wider problem," Jolie told reporters on a visit to the Azraq refugee camp.

Amnesty is calling for the international community to come together to solve the crisis at the twin refugee summits next week, one scheduled Monday at the U.N. General Assembly and the other a leaders summit set for Tuesday, to be hosted by President Barack Obama.

"It has to be an international solution if we are really going to tackle this refugee crisis," Hashash said. "And that's why we are trying to ask world leaders at the summits next week, at the Obama summit in particular, to make really concrete commitments to take in more refugees and really bear their fair share of responsibility."

Aid groups say the desperate situation at the Jordan-Syria border is a stark symptom of the world's failure to deal with the refugee crisis.

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