Jordan ‘cannot host more refugees’ as Syria crisis worsens

More than 270,000 displaced people are trapped in southern Syria due to Damascus’s offensive on rebel-held parts of Daraa province.
Sunday 08/07/2018
Dramatic situation. A Jordanian soldier stands guard while trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies to be delivered for displaced Syrians wait at the Jordanian city of Mafraq, on July 1.(Reuters)
Dramatic situation. A Jordanian soldier stands guard while trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies to be delivered for displaced Syrians wait at the Jordanian city of Mafraq, on July 1.(Reuters)

AMMAN - More than 270,000 displaced people are trapped in southern Syria due to Damascus’s offensive on rebel-held parts of Daraa province. That situation places massive pressure on neighbouring Jordan, which initiated a humanitarian campaign delivering water, food, medicine and blankets.

The displaced Syrians, including women and children, were not allowed to enter Jordan, which has been dealing with the effects of refugees since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said, as of last December 2017, there were 655,624 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan and 80% of those people live outside camps, primarily in the northern Jordanian governorates.

Jordan has taken strict measures not to allow any more refugees to enter the country, citing security issues. Jordanian Lieutenant-Colonel Oudeh Shdeifat said hundreds of armed men affiliated with terrorist groups, disguised as women and with fake identification, were among Syrians along the Jordanian border.

Columnist Hassan Abu Nemeh said Jordan made the right decision not to open the borders.

“Jordan has shown the world that it is committed to its humanitarian responsibilities and not just for the Syrians who entered the country seeking refuge since the war started in their country but also to the Iraqis, Lebanese, Yemenis, Libyans and Sudanese in addition to Palestinians who came to Jordan seeking security,” he said.

“This time the Jordanian government said enough is enough and the country cannot host more refugees due to lack of resources and limited international aid. However, the kingdom embraced its humanitarian aspect and continued to provide aid to the more than 300,000 displaced at the borders and even this is not easy for a country such as Jordan, with limited resources and space.”

Abu Nemeh said security was a reason not to open borders for the displaced but it has a solution.

“Of course, the security issue is an important part of the whole process of allowing the displaced to enter the kingdom. Even during periods of calm, security challenges, which required being on high alert against terrorists, kept Jordanian security forces on maximum alert at a very high cost, year after year; the effect from the required additional Jordanian security undertakings in response to the terrorist organisations’ control of huge areas adjacent to the Jordanian borders in both Syria and Iraq have resulted in massive economic implications,” Abu Nemeh said.

“The result was the closure of Jordanian borders, which have been causing enormous economic and trade obstructions contributing to the already existing economic crisis in Jordan.”

Abu Nemeh said because of the necessity to afford the newcomers’ basic needs, Amman decided not to encourage another wave of refugees into the country and instead provided assistance at the borders.

Facing dangerous conditions, including extreme heat, dust and wind of the desert, displaced people are waiting either to enter Jordan or return to their homes.

Jordanians have opened their arms and shared their meagre resources many times, including the enormous wave of Palestinian refugees in 1948 followed by influxes in 1967 and in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait and Palestinians from there resettled in Jordan. The 1991 Gulf War sent more than 1 million Iraqi refugees to Jordan.

“This is the first time Jordan has had to think twice about opening its borders, not out of depleted humanity but simply due to depleted resources,” Abu Nemeh said.

Jordanians started donation campaigns to help the displaced. The Jordanian military built a 20-bed field hospital on the border with Syria and three first-aid units supported by 11 ambulances.

Jordanian Minister of State for Information Affairs and the Jordanian Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghnaimat said three passages had been opened for the delivery of humanitarian aid. She said 122 trucks carrying water, food, blankets and medicine have crossed the borders to reach Syrians.

Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi said Amman was working with all sides to avert a crisis.

“Jordan working with all parties to protect civilians inside #Syria as we deliver & facilitate delivery of humanitarian supplies. Helping Syrians in their country possible, being done. Priority to reach a ceasefire, prevent more suffering. We’re trying to solve crisis others created,” he tweeted.

A statement from UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Anders Pedersen focused on Jordan’s role in hosting refugees. He said this was the largest population displacement in southern Syria since the onset of the crisis.

At least 270,000 people have been displaced in southern Syria since June 18 due to fighting and military action. Nearly half of them are children.

“The immediate needs of displaced Syrians near the border in Jordan include shelter, water, food, medical care and sanitation. Children are at particular risk of dehydration and diarrhoea,” Pedersen said, pointing out that, since the war in Syria began in 2011, Jordan has shouldered much of the responsibility for hosting Syrian refugees.

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