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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan is barring entry to Palestinians fleeing Syria and in some cases deporting them back to the wartorn country, in violation of its international obligations, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The organisation launched a report entitled "Not Welcome: Jordan's Treatment of Palestinians escaping Syria" and said its findings were based on interviews with 30 people affected by "uncompromising treatment" that stood in "marked contrast" with how it treated Syrian nationals.
Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Ensour said the report "was not fair", adding that HRW, rather than criticise the kingdom, should pressure the international community to return Palestinians to their original homes in present-day Israel.
Jordan has allowed over 607,000 U.N.-registered Syrian refugees entry since the beginning of the Syrian conflict. But last year it began to impose tough restrictions on the entry of Syrian nationals.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said there were currently over 14,000 Palestinians from Syria who had managed to enter Jordan illegally.
They did not have proper residency papers, rendering them vulnerable to exploitation, arrest and deportation, said Nadim Houry, HRW's deputy director for Middle East and North Africa.
Jordan's political establishment has long been worried by the demographic threat posed by citizens of Palestinian origin, who form a majority of the country's 7 million population.
HRW quotes U.N. sources as saying at least 100 Palestinians had been deported back to Syria since early 2012. Jordanian authorities had separated Palestinian men from families, which were left deprived of a primary source of income.
The report said at least 70,000 Palestinians were estimated to have fled Syria since the conflict began in 2011. At least 53,000 were in Lebanon, which has also restricted their entry. http://hrw.org/node/126091
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Andrew Roche)