- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

At his recent news conference with President Obama, King Abdullah II of Jordan was asked whether he would consider closing Jordan’s border to refugees from Syria (“Obama pledges $200M to Jordan for Syrian refugees,” Web, Friday). “How are you going to turn back women, children?” Abdullah answered, “This is something we just can’t do. It’s not the Jordanian way.” The king’s sentiment is noble, and his open arms for more than 300,000 refugees is laudable. But the Jordanian border is not open to all refugees fleeing Syria.

Palestinians, including women and children, are being turned away. A Palestinian man told me what happened when he approached the Jordanian border with his pregnant wife, a Syrian national, and their three small children: “The Jordan Army said, ‘Your wife can come but you and your children cannot enter.’ I told them we were escaping death. I said, ‘It is impossible for me to go back, kill me now.’ The officer said, ‘That’s not our problem. You have to go back.’”

Mr. Obama announced he would ask Congress for $200 million to support Syrian refugees in Jordan. But the United States should not give Jordan a free pass to forcibly return Palestinian refugees. The dangers Palestinians face in Syria are no less than those Syrians face. The United States should provide aid to the refugees but ensure that no aid money goes to or through the Jordanian government as long as Jordan sends some refugees back to face death - even as it welcomes others.

BILL FRELICK

Refugee Program Director

Human Rights Watch

Washington