Predicament of hundreds of Syrian refugees in Jordan

RAMTHA, Syrai – With the violence in Syria continuing unabated; the international community’s attention is focusing on the issue of displaced Syrians. Also, the international media has picked up on this burning topic as the situation is fast turning into a humanitarian crisis.

All along the Syrian crisis, Jordan has followed an undeclared open door policy for Syrian refugees. The country received a huge number of Syrians. Some of them entered legally but many did so illegally especially those who defected the army.

The number of Syrian refugees flooding into Jordan has increased according to the figures published by the UN High Commission for Refugees and according to Jordanian sources.

Precise figures of the number of refugees are hard to come by. While more than 100,000 Syrian refugees entered Jordan according to the government, only 4,500 are registered with the UN High Commission for Refugees and some 2,500 are still waiting to be registered. The commission announced that the Syrian refugees will go to two places in Al-Mafraq and Al-Ramtha cities.

To facilitate their entry to Jordan, last month Jordan finished removing some 300,000 mines from its border with Syria. The security forces usually transfer the Syrian refugees to the Bashabsheh compound in Ramtha, which is a housing complex allocated for illegal arrivals. The influx of refugees comes amid the Syrian-imposed restrictions that ban anyone under the age of 42 from coming into Jordan. Those who meet the age requirement are asked to bring permission from the Ministry of Interior. Some refugees said that they had to pay a bribe to the border guards to be allowed to enter Jordan.

Refugees come mainly from Dara’a — an impoverished city on the borders between Syria and Jordan and the birthplace of the Syrian uprising. Many of them enjoy some familial ties with Jordanians from the border city of Ramtha where they stay with their relatives. The conflict has indeed reached Jordan. When refugees living with their Jordanian relatives talk about their daily predicament in Syria.

Since the first Israeli-Arab war in 1948, Jordan has received waves of refugees from almost all neighboring states. Yet, given the meager natural resources of the country, its ability to meet the basic needs of refugees is modest.

A prominent member to the Jordanian Parliament, Bassam Haddadin, was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “We believe there is an increase in the number of refugees, and at the end of the day this will be a difficult challenge for Jordan, economically, socially and even politically… We will soon begin feeling the consequences. The refugees will increase the poverty rate, and they will become a burden on the health care and education system. But this is a humanitarian disaster. We cannot abandon the Syrian people.”

Jordan has a history in receiving refugees. And yet, it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee convention. But in 1998, the government agreed to sign an agreement specifying that refugees seeking asylum can stay in Jordan pending refugee status determination.

Refugees leaving Syrian face a lot of problem. For instance, the Syrian mined its borders with Lebanon and Turkey. The Human Rights Watch mentions in one of its report that the Syrian troops had placed land mines close to the borders with Lebanon and Turkey. Therefore, those who leave Syria in illegal way risk their lives.

Kofi Annan’s plan is unlikely to work as the regime in Syria is still buying time to crackdown on the Syrian protesters. With that in mind, the number of refugees is expected to hit a high mark in weeks to come. This fact raises the question over whether Jordan is ready to cope with more numbers of refugees.

Unlike the case of the Iraqi refugees in Jordan, the government was completely surprised with the scope of the Syrian uprising. Therefore, its readiness to receive thousands of Syrian refugees is beyond the capacity of the country. Now, officials in Jordan talk about a nightmare scenario of a massive influx of refugees into the country. For Jordan to be able to meet the need of the refugees, the country is in a need for financial assistance from the international community. Failure of Jordan to meet this challenge will have grave consequences on the region. The figures are real and not inflated to obtain some assistance from the international community.

So far, there have been a number of humanitarian organizations that are involved in improving the situation of the refugees. But this assistance will be modest if the number of refugees continues to increase.

Additionally, the Syrian refugees in Jordan report the atrocities of the Syrian troops. This has increased the level of popular resentment of the Syrian regime. In fact, you hardly find people in Jordan who sympathize with the regime’s policy of cracking down on protesters. While you might find a few people in Jordan talk about a conspiracy against Syria and the Arabs, the vast majority of people do not buy into this argument. Basil Okoor, a prominent journalist in Jordan, ridicules this statement.

“The essence of the problem is the brutal regime. Syrian people have been ruled by undemocratic regime for decades. Al along, the Syrian people have been sidelined while the regime failed to affect the desired changes.

“In fact, it was the delaying tactics adopted by the regime and the brutal handling of the peaceful protests that triggered the whole crisis. And yet, some other external powers like Iran exploited the situation and interfered,” he said.

Source: Arab News

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