August 7, 2014

V. Jordan’s Removal of Citizenship from Citizens of Palestinian Origin

Jordanian law prescribes narrow circumstances for denaturalizing a citizen. Entering the “service of an enemy state,” or the “military,” or “civil service of a foreign state” are grounds for revoking citizenship. However, in the case of foreign military and civil service, Jordan must give the person concerned warning to leave the other state’s service and he or she must have refused to do so before losing Jordanian citizenship.[79] Furthermore, Jordanian law does not permit authorities to withdraw Jordanian citizenship from the children as a consequence of withdrawing it from their Palestinian-origin father.[80]

Jordanian citizens affected by removal of citizenship have not learned they had been stripped of their citizenship from any official notice, but rather during routine procedures such as renewing a passport or driver's license, or registering a marriage or the birth of a child at the Civil Status Department.[81]

Four Palestinian families from Syria told Human Rights Watch that they fled to Jordan because they believed their Jordanian-issued identity documents might allow them to legally reside in Jordan and enjoy, or in some cases reacquire, citizenship rights. Of these, members of three families, 10 individuals, attempted to renew Jordanian identity documents with the Civil Status Department, only to find out that their citizenship had been revoked, and authorities then detained them and deported them or placed them in Cyber City. Of these 10 individuals, only one man claimed that he fought with the PLO against Jordanian government forces during the Black September fighting of 1970-71.[82]

Some Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin who fled to Syria following the Black September conflict were not eligible to register with UNRWA in Syria or with the General Administration for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR), the official Syrian government agency that administers services to registered Palestinian refugees in Syria, including issuing Syrian travel documents and ID cards for Palestinians in Syria.[83] Rather, Palestinians in Syria with Jordanian identification documents, including expired passports, family books, and birth certificates, were able to obtain 10-year residency permits directly from the Syrian Interior Ministry, but unlike other Palestinians they had to apply for work permits and were restricted from working in the public sector.[84] Members of two Palestinian families said that in Syria they carried an identity document issued by the PLO mission in Damascus.[85]

Human Rights Watch interviewed members of four families from Syria who had family members refused renewal of ID cards and passports by the Jordanian Civil Status Department. It is unclear from those interviews precisely when Jordanian authorities stripped these Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin living in Syria of their citizenship. While one family reported that they were able to renew documents at the Jordanian embassy in Damascus until at least 2011, and another family until 2009, two others reported that passport renewal requests had been denied at the embassy as early as 1981.[86]

In addition to the risk of deportation, denaturalized Jordanians of Palestinian origin from Syria find it difficult to exercise other basic rights in Jordan, including obtaining health care, finding work, owning property, traveling, and sending their children to public schools and universities.[87] With no other country to turn to, these Jordanians have become stateless Palestinians, in many cases for a second time after 1948.

Human Rights Watch wrote to Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein al-Majali on May 5, 2014, asking how many Palestinian-origin Jordanian citizens from Syria had been subjected to removal of citizenship, but did not receive a reply.

[79] Human Rights Watch, Stateless Again: Palestinian-Origin Jordanians Deprived of their Nationality, February 2010, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2010/02/01/stateless-again-0, p 26.

[80] Human Rights Watch, Stateless Again, p. 16

[81] Human Rights Watch, Stateless Again, p 26

[82] Human Rights Watch interviews with four Palestinian families from Syria, Amman, May 28, 2014.

[83] Syria Needs Analysis Project, “Palestinians from Syria,” March 2014, March 2014, http://www.acaps.org/reports/downloader/palestinians_from_syria_march_2014/77/syria (accessed May 17, 2014)

[84] Ibid.

[85] Human Rights Watch interviews with two Palestinian families from Syria, Amman, April 28, 2014.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Human Rights Watch, Stateless Again, p. 47.