AMMAN, Jordan — The United Nations and human rights groups on Tuesday called on Jordan to allow the entry of thousands of Syrian refugees stuck in a northeast desert holding area adjoining the Syrian border.
The United Nations refugee agency spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said the number of refugees in that area had tripled to 12,000 since the start of November as the Syrian conflict intensified.
“The population includes elderly people, others who are sick or wounded, children, women and others who are vulnerable and need help,” Ms. Fleming said.
Human Rights Watch also released a statement calling on the Jordanian government to allow entry to the “thousands of Syrian asylum seekers at its northeastern border region in deplorable conditions.”
In a telephone message, Jordan’s government spokesman, Mohammad Momani, said the country’s borders remained open and that the number of stranded refugees as reported by the United Nations had been “greatly exaggerated.”
He did not specify how many were stuck, but said that Jordan, which borders Syria and Iraq, “has security concerns and is entitled to scrutinize those refugees seeking entry.”
The flow of Syrians permitted into Jordan has slowed substantially since last year as security concerns increased and Jordanians were overwhelmed by the number of refugees already in the country. According to data compiled by the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental group, Jordan has been permitting entry in small batches of a few dozen at a time.
More than four million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries since the war began in 2011, including more than 600,000 to Jordan. The influx has severely strained the resources of all host countries. According to the United Nations refugee agency, more than 80 percent of refugees in Jordan live outside camps and subsist below the poverty line of $3.20 per day.
The United Nations just launched its biggest humanitarian aid appeal, seeking more than $20 billion for 2016. Much of that money is meant to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis.
Refugees who are permitted to enter Jordan are sent to the Azraq camp, about 200 miles from the northeast holding area.
Satellite images of the holding area taken this week revealed more than 1,450 refugee tents, compared with 175 in April, according to Human Rights Watch.
The organization also expressed alarm about health and sanitation problems because of the crowded conditions. “Children are suffering from diarrhea, vomiting and acute malnutrition,” it said.
As winter approaches, the organization said, further deterioration could cause “additional serious health problems and possibly death, especially among children and the elderly.”