70,000 Syrian refugees stranded in ‘buffer zone’

Blocked from entering Jordan, some 70,000 Syrians are camped out near a border crossing known as Rukban, one of two locations where refugees and asylum seekers are marooned in a “demilitarized zone” a few kilometers wide on the Syria-Jordan border—demarcated by ridges of bulldozed earth known as berms. Syrians began arriving at this remote, wind-battered stretch of desert in July 2014. With Jordan refusing the majority entry, the settlement has grown—and apparently been infiltrated by smugglers and rebel groups and extremist militants. Aid has been reduced to almost nothing, and the UN and donors have been trying to hash out a deal for weeks.

A suicide attack claimed by ISIS killed seven Jordanian troops at a Rukban military base June 21, prompting Amman to tighten security. A plan for Rukban, drafted by the UN with the Jordanian military, is laid out in a document obtained by IRIN news agency. It allows no further refugees into Jordan, but would establish a new aid distribution point deeper into the DMZ, possibly within Syrian territory. The open aim is to prompt a “spontaneous movement of refugees to the new distribution point”—away form the Jordanian border, and closer to the forces they fled. One European diplomat called the plan “creation of a buffer zone.”

From IRIN, Oct. 7