(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Syrian authorities are implementing a crackdown restricting the entry of Syrian nationals into Jordan, activists say, reducing the flow of refugees into the Kingdom to their lowest levels since the start of the year-long crisis.
According to Syrian activists, border officials have started turning away civilians at the Jaber border crossing, previously the only crossing point open to passenger movement.
"At first they started turning away families and women, anyone who looked like they were escaping to Jordan," Shadi Bardan, of the southern region local coordination committee told The Jordan Times from the southern Syrian city of Nasib.
"Now no one can get through."
The Kingdom has been the preferred destination for the majority of activists fleeing ongoing military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, receiving at least 78,000 Syrian nationals since the start of the crisis last year.
The new restrictions in passenger movement coincides with an increased Syrian military presence near the border region, with opposition figures citing a recent deployment of a 2,000-troop "reinforcement brigade" to reassert control over regions currently held by military defectors.
The increased military presence has led to a rise in clashes between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) near Daraa, some 10 kilometres away from the Jordanian-Syrian border, leading to dozens of injuries, according to the FSA.
According to activists, in addition to wresting control from opposition strongholds, the security crackdown also aims to prevent refugees from crossing into Jordan illegally, often the only option for political dissidents and relatives of those linked to anti-government protest.
Abu Mohammad, an activist who did not give his full name, crossed into the Kingdom illegally from Daraa some six months ago, claimed the border clampdown comes as part of a greater scheme to "round up and punish" residents of the region which launched the popular uprising one year ago.
"The regime wants the blood of Daraa and they don't want anyone to escape," said Abu Mohammad, whose relatives were turned away from the Jaber crossing on Friday.
"Those who stayed too long now have nowhere to go."
Local charity societies confirmed the border clampdown, claiming that the flow of refugees into the Kingdom, which has witnessed a "dramatic" increase in recent weeks, has come to a halt.
"At first there was only a handful of new arrivals; now we have none at all," said Mufeed Hafeth of the Islamic Charity Centre Society's Mafraq office.
Meanwhile, the Kitab and Sunna Society, which provides assistance to over 3,000 Syrian refugees across the country, reported a drop in new registrations from some 50 a week to a "handful" over the past few days.
Officials are nearing completion of the Kingdom's first Syrian refugee camp in Ribaa Sirhan, a few kilometres outside the northern city of Mafraq, which has hosted the bulk of Syrian refugees due to its proximity to the Jaber border crossing.
The Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation is working in coordination with local charities to establish two additional camps in Sama Sirhan and Hujjaj near the northern city of Ramtha in order to head off any potential "humanitarian crisis".
The establishment of refugee camps comes amidst official concerns over the economic pressures of a sudden influx of refugees similar to that of Iraqi refugees in 2003, which drove up rents and prices of basic goods in major urban centres.
Some 4,000 Syrians are registered with the UN refugee agency, a figure UN officials admit is "unrepresentative" of the total number of Syrians in need due to ongoing safety concerns preventing most refugees from registering with international aid groups.
Local charitable societies place the number of Syrians in Jordan in need of basic humanitarian aid at 30,000.