First Published: 2017-08-19

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan
Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO, is paying Jordanian landowners grants to help them build or renovate housing.
Middle East Online

Children of Syrian refugee Mohamed Ghazal pose for a photo in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid.

AMMAN - Struggling to make ends meet, Syrian refugee Umm Iman and her family spent years moving from house to house in Jordan. Now, they have finally found a place to settle.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO, is paying Jordanian landowners grants to help them build or renovate housing.

In exchange, the landlords offer free housing to Syrian refugees for a specified period.

"We used to have to move house every month for various reasons," Umm Iman said.

In contrast to the high rents and dilapidated buildings of previous lodgings, Umm Iman, 29, said her new home is "clean, spacious and comfortable".

She shares the apartment in the northern city of Irbid, near the Syrian border, with her husband and their four daughters, her sister-in-law and her children.

It is one of 6,000 homes made available to Syrian refugees in Jordan through the NRC programme.

Around 25,000 refugees are accommodated for free or very low rents, depending on their level of need.

Umm Iman's family fled Syria in 2012, finding shelter in a refugee camp in northern Jordan before leaving to settle elsewhere at their own expense.

"Our situation was really bad," her husband Mohammad Ghazal said.

The places they could afford "were unhealthy, cramped and some were falling down. Once, the roof of one of the houses collapsed on us," he said.

"We were faced with a hard choice: either return to the refugee camp or return to Syria. This project saved us."

- Living in poverty -

The United Nations says it has registered more than 650,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, but the kingdom says more than 1.4 million Syrians are on its territory.

More than 80 percent of them are living under the poverty line, according to UN figures.

Located in a residential neighbourhood surrounded by trees, the apartment opens onto a main street and is part of a building with eight apartments, each with two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a toilet.

The family is living in it for free on a contract that expires in March 2018.

The apartment is owned by Mustafa Shatwani, a retired Jordanian engineer who said the NRC programme benefits both parties.

The NGO has covered 25 percent of the costs of the apartments he owns, where he now hosts several Syrian families.

"The costs of construction are high in Jordan," he said. "If I don't rent out my place, I can't get the money back."

Rodrigo Melo, who runs the programme for the NRC, said it is allocated between $3 million and $5 million every year and benefits the local economy.

Launched in 2014, it now has 10,000 Syrians on its waiting list.

Families assessed as "vulnerable" pay no rent, while others pay a small sum.

NRC, backed by the UN and international donors, also offers work opportunities to refugees, often in the construction sector.

It "encourages human interaction and preserves the dignity of the Syrians," he said.

Ghazal's niece Aya, seven, said she was "very happy" in the new home.

"It's bigger and nicer than the other place we lived, and I have lots of Syrian friends here," she said.

 

Saudi Crown Prince calls Iran supreme leader 'new Hitler'

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Syrian opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number