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Seeking refuge across the border: Syria's Palestinian population

Cyber City in the border town of Al-Ramtha, Jordan was once an industrial complex, but since May has become a transit camp for refugees fleeing the terror in Syria. According to footage obtained by Al Jazeera, families of up to eight people share a single room there and are given one meal a day. There is no glass in the windows; curtains are used for doors and the communal bathrooms serve to wash clothes and dishes. Police guard the immediate area to prevent movement beyond a close inner radius.

As Syria spirals further and further into turmoil, thousands of refugees are escaping across the border to Jordan in hope of a more peaceful life. However, the reality on the Jordanian side is bleak, at least for Palestinians. Of those who have not been returned forcibly to Syria, many face deportation. Whilst Syrian asylum seekers can move freely within Jordan, for Palestinians the chance to move beyond Cyber City on the road to a better life in Jordan, for the moment at least, is slim.

Until recently all refugees, whether Syrian or Palestinian, were detained temporarily until their identity was established, they passed a security screening and found a Jordanian guarantor who would take care of them and mediate with the establishment if anything happened. But in the middle of April 2012 this system stopped being applied to Palestinians and now they are stranded at the border.

According to Dr. Al-Manaseer, General Secretary of the Jordanian Interior Ministry, Palestinians are exempt from the violence in Syria and so do not need to seek refuge.

This kind of political rhetoric represents a worrying gap between truth and reality. Palestinians are very much affected by the conflict. When Syria's government inflicted the siege on Daraa in April, the opposition sought refuge in the Palestinian refugee camps. They became a secret place to shelter and take care of the injured until Assad's army discovered what was happening and shelled the camps.

Many Palestinians have been detained, particularly in Yarmouk, Damascus. They are also part of anti-government protests where fighting has broken out between the Free Syrian Army and the armed forces. As a result of shelling they are fleeing the cities of Homs and Daraa, just like Syrian refugees.

So why are Syrians and Palestinians subject to such different treatment? Another explanation given by the Jordanian government is that they are protecting Palestinians' right of return to Israel by keeping them in Cyber City.

Discrimination against the Palestinians is nothing new within Jordan. Jordanian Palestinians with full citizenship have fewer opportunities in terms of job opportunities and benefits. It is believed by some that if their influx into the country, or power within it, is not curbed Jordan is at risk of becoming an "alternative" Palestine.

As if it wasn't enough for Palestinians to become second time refugees in Jordan, now they are subject to arbitrary detention in unfit living conditions. The least they deserve is entry into Jordan and to receive the same treatment as Syrians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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