Jordan looks for new answers to refugee crisis

May 07, 2017
Destination unknown. Young Syrian refugees are seen at Jordan’s Zaatari camp, last month. (AFP)

Amman - Jordan is grappling with its refugee crisis, mulling what to do with the large number of people who continue to flee the war in Syria, which started more than six years ago.
Convened under the theme “Hu­man Security: International Com­munity Obligations and Hosting Communities’ Role,” the Second In­ternational Conference for Refugees in the Middle East met in Amman.
Organised by the Refugees, Dis­placed Persons and Forced Migra­tion Studies Centre at northern Jor­dan’s Yarmouk University, which conducts research and studies on issues related to refugees and dis­placed persons, the conference fo­cused on the need to continue sup­port for Jordan as it carries on with its humanitarian mission of hosting refugees.
Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury opened the event by stressing that the refugees’ cri­sis has been a critical issue for six years.
“Jordan’s population is 9.5 mil­lion, in which 6.6 million are Jor­danians,” he said. “The kingdom’s population grew tenfold in the last 55 years and the last six years put a lot of pressure on the various key sectors in Jordan due to the refu­gees’ crisis, as hosting them costs 25% of the total budget of Jordan.”
Fakhoury said there were approx­imately 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, which also hosts Pales­tinian and Iraqi refugees.
Data indicate that 657,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UN refugee agency. About 177,070 are in Amman, 158,585 in Mafraq, 108,826 in Zarqa and 135,535 in Irbid.
Yarmouk University President Re­fat al-Faouri said Jordan was doing what it can despite the country’s small size and limited resources.
“As part of the Yarmouk Univer­sity social responsibility we have signed an agreement with the UN­ESCO to cover the education of 175 Syrian refugee students,” he said.
Fawaz Momani, director of the Refugees, Displaced Persons and Forced Migration Studies Centre, said: “The convening of this con­ference came as a warning sign at a time when the number of refugees in the world reached 65 million, who were forced to leave their coun­tries due to persecution, torture and abuse.”
“Europe receives 6% of them, while 86% are still in low-income countries, which is an indication of the fragility of the global system in dealing with asylum issues and their consequences,” Momani added.
He stated that the centre recently completed three pilot projects to improve the quality of life for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
“We have the smart electronic platforms that employ e-guidance that will provide social and mental health services to refugees through smart phones, e-learning and the third related to the launch of the Sa­hel Horan FM radio station for Syr­ian refugees,” he said.
Maram Ababneh, from Jordan’s Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Holy Places, said conferences give hope to a humanitarian issue that has been troubling the region, especially Jordan, for a long time.
“For years now, government and public have been involved in such a huge issue, and most of us have been contributing time and effort based on ‘helping each other’ be­cause we cannot watch the crisis and just stand still,” said Ababneh, who led a charity campaign in her hometown of Irbid.
“We have assisted around 30 Syr­ian families who escaped the atroci­ties and killings in their country and provided them with blankets, food, heaters and necessary items and we at the ministry have been involved in teaching and training refugees for such a long time,” she added.
The UNHCR said that, of the total number of registered Syrian refu­gees who live outside camps, about 49% are aged 18-59. Those aged 5-11 years total about 19% of those reg­istered Syrians. About 80 children are born in the Zaatari, the oldest of the Jordan-based camps, each week, and 57% of the population is under the age of 18.
Among those attending the con­ference were Jordanians who were not happy with the presence of refu­gees in their country.
“We don’t want financial support. We want the refugees to leave the country,” said Abu Khaled, who re­fused to give his full name.