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.
Roufan Nahhas, based in Jordan, has been covering cultural issues in Jordan for more than two decades.