BEIRUT (AP) -- Jordanian authorities have deported "vulnerable Syrian refugees," including wounded men and unaccompanied children, an international human rights group said Monday, adding that a Jordanian government spokesman denied the claim.
Human Rights Watch said that those deported include a group of 12 Syrians who had been receiving treatment at a rehabilitation center and four refugees, three of them children, whom Jordanian border police stopped near the Syrian border.
Human Rights Watch quoted the government spokesman as denying the refugees had been deported, saying they were taken to other unnamed hospitals. It did not name the spokesman. Another Jordanian official in Amman contacted by the Associated Press refused to comment on the report.
"Jordan is carrying a heavy refugee burden, but it should not be in the business of sending any refugees back to a conflict zone where their lives are threatened, much less children and wounded men who can't even walk," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Such deportations create an environment of fear that affects all refugees."
Syria's civil war, which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, has forced 3.2 million people to flee the country. Jordan, Syria's southern neighbor, hosts 619,000 refugees.
Also Monday, Chris Gunness, spokesman for U.N. refugee agency UNRWA said there are currently almost 15,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria registered with the agency in Jordan. Shortly after the first Palestinian refugees were admitted, the Jordanian government barred further entry for Palestine refugees from Syria, as expressed publicly in January 2013, he said.
Gunness added that during this year, UNRWA has been made aware of 106 cases of "involuntary deportations of Palestine refugees from Jordan to Syria, many of which have been children and women."