Jordan says several Syria pilots seeking refuge recently
Amman (dpa) - Jordan has granted refuge to several Syrian pilots over the last two months, a security source said on Sunday, a few days after a Syrian airman defected with his warplane and requested political asylum.
The source said Jordan accepted several defectors from the Syrian airforce, who had entered by land, including three in the last two days.
Jordanian government spokesman Samih Maaytah could not confirm the number of Syrian pilots in Jordan, adding that “dozens” may have entered on humanitarian grounds.
Maaytah said that Amman had so far only granted political asylum to Col. Hasan Marai al-Hamada, who defected on Thursday in his warplane.
According to the security source, “several” pilots who had entered Jordan last month on humanitarian grounds came forward with political asylum requests on Saturday following Hamadah’s defection.
Maaytah could not confirm whether authorities have received further political asylum requests.
Jordan has transferred the pilots to a guarded military compound outside the border city of Mafraq, which is where Syrian army defectors are kept, the source said.
Jordan follows an open-border policy, granting refuge to Syrian civilians, political activists, and army defectors alike. Some 140,000 Syrians have entered Jordan since the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011.
Although Jordan says its policy has had no ill effects on ties with the Syrian government, officials admit privately that the issue has strained relations with Damascus.
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