Ministry for Refugee Affairs... why not?

تم نشره في Wed 7 May / May 2014. 10:37 AM - آخر تعديل في Wed 7 May / May 2014. 01:25 PM

By Fahed Khitan

The Zaatari refugees camp hosted, a few days ago, the third meeting of the neighboring countries of Syria, which focuses on following-up on the humanitarian dimensions of the Syrian crisis, and specifically the issue of refugees and their consequences on neighboring countries; Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey, and the role of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which started this series of ​​meetings two years ago.

The ministers meeting at the Zaatari camp is more than a gesture of solidarity with the humanitarian plight of refugees, and the suffering of the host countries; it is assumed that the meeting is a turning point in the management of the refugee crisis on the regional and international levels.

Jordan realized, along with the neighboring countries, that the Syrian refugee crisis is likely to continue for many years, in light of the failure of the efforts for a political solution, one the one hand, and the aggravation of armed conflict between the regime and the opposition from one side and the rival factions among themselves on the other. The Turkish foreign minister was very frank when he said in his speech during the conference that the number of Syrian refugees will exceed ten million, and that the crisis will continue for years to come.

There is no doubt that such expectations is frustrating for refugees aspiring to return to their homes, and the host countries, who are struggling to meet their basic needs. But these expectations require thinking about a new approach to deal with the long-term challenge, where there is need for the development of relief plans, and the transition from emergency operations to an advanced level; medium and long-term planning, taking into account the need for states to strengthen their infrastructure and services to accommodate the needs of the refugees for long periods.

The transition to this level imposes on the international community and donor countries a need to reconsider the size of their funds earmarked for relief operations, and to provide greater resources to meet the needs of refugees and countries.

Jordan is country hurt the host because of the Syrian asylum, and did not get enough aid to accommodate to this challenge. If it happens, the presence of more than one million Syrians on its territories poses risks beyond the financial cost.

But no matter how varied the views on the subject are, we are facing a challenge that requires new internal approach. The management of the Syrian refugees since the beginning of the crisis has been characterized by confusion, improvisation, and the absence of institutional work, due to inconsistencies in the interpretations and conflicts over powers. I can say that was the case as well with the Iraqi refugees, and which is still open.

What I would like to say here is that the issue of refugees in Jordan has become a major strategic challenge, no less important than the challenge of energy, water, and national debt. That requires the presence of a specialized ministry to deal with its consequences, and the absence of accurate information without which it cannot draw the plans and risk management implications of a demographic change of this magnitude and gravity.

Tasks of such ministry would not be limited to the Syrian refugees issue; there are ramifications for this issue, notably the entry of at least 13 thousand Palestinian refugees from Syria to Jordan during the past three years, and some unofficial sources estimating double that figure; in addition to the Iraqi refugees, and other Arab nationalities who came to Jordan and did not leave — and there are no accurate estimates of their numbers.

The need for such an institutional framework is magnified with the approaching second million Syrian refugee in Jordan.



This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.