Jordan has refused to allow medical aid to pass through the country on its way to an isolated Syrian refugee camp amid the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said here.

None of nearly 45,000 refugees living in the Rukban camp, located on Syrian territory near the border with the Kingdom, are permitted onto Jordanian soil, the Minister informed the UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pederson on Monday.

"Jordan will not permit sending any assistance to the Rukban camp from its territory or allow any person from the camp to enter Jordanian territory for any reason," Efe news quoted Safadi as saying to Pederson in a telephone conversation, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. "Jordan's top priority at this juncture is to protect its citizens against the coronavirus," he added.

Relationship between the Syrian and US governments affecting aid

The situation in the US-held camp, located in the Syrian desert, is "critical", according to Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria. It has barely received humanitarian aid over the past few years due to the broken relationship between the Syrian and US governments.

Refugees
Representational Picture Wikimedia Commons

Although UN organizations used to send relief aid to the camp from Jordan until two years ago, the Jordanian government insisted that they should go through the Syrian regime to deliver the goods to the camps.

"Taking care of the Rukban gathering is a Syrian-UN responsibility because it includes Syrian citizens and hence any medical or humanitarian assistance required by the camp should come from inside Syria," Safadi said.

"Jordan supports UN efforts to work out a political solution, particularly in these unprecedented circumstances which require that all efforts focus on fighting the pandemic and its spillovers," he added.

Strict COVID-19 restrictions in Jordan

The conversation between Safadi and Pederson came amid UN warnings that refugee camps in the Middle East were among the places where COVID-19 could wreak havoc, given the weak medical care available.

Jordan has reported 417 coronavirus cases and seven deaths according to the most recent figures by the Health Ministry.

The Kingdom has adopted some of the strictest restrictions against the novel virus in the region, including a total 24-hour curfew that lasted for a few days although it eased it later to allow people to buy essential supplies.