Let’s be frank

تم نشره في Thu 5 June / Jun 2014. 09:16 AM

By Jumana Ghunaimat

Currently, official figures estimate that 90% of Syrian refugees in Jordan do not live in camps, while the estimated number of Syrians who are in the Kingdom, either refugees or residents, are about 1.4 million people.

They ended-up outside the camps for several reasons, most notably the official confusion when they first started arriving in the country, in the absence of a plan to deal with the phenomenon at the beginning of the crisis; since no one expects that the figure will reach this high.

The second reason is related to the refugees themselves trying daily to get out of the camps; to either look for work, or to escape the poor living conditions in the camps.

The large, and unexpected, number of refugees added a new challenge to a state that “had enough" challenges even before the Syrian crisis, which put in an extra burden on the treasury, and, more dangerously, created competition on the services and the limited resources in the communities that host Syrians.

Some interpret talking about the pressures caused by the Syrian refugees as a campaign against their influx into Jordan; a charge that starts flying around as soon as one tries to discuss the issue, specifically the reality of services in those communities; whether health, education, roads, water, energy, municipalities, housing or the standard of living.

This position, with all due respect, is illogical, and in it you find an inherent omission of the dangerous that are evolving with the growth of the numbers of Syrians in Jordan.

The goal is not to repudiate the suffering of the refugees, but not talking about the actual impact of the increasing numbers of Syrians means neglecting a major social problem and a serious crisis — one which is not on the surface, yet, but is growing rapidly in the host communities, which have been severely damaged by the presence of the Syrians there.

The presence of the Syrians began to provoke the people of the communities who pay the price for the refugees’ presence; whether due to its impact on the level of services provided to them, or when competing for work after the Syrians took many work opportunities that would have gone and was with Jordanians.

The financial needs are massive, and Jordan cannot afford them; some stakeholders estimate that about 4.2 billion dollars are needed for the provision of priority projects in the service sectors only; this does not include requirements for the protection of the borders against extremist groups that are fighting on the northern front.

Let's be frank, being emotional will not benefit anyone if things evolve and that which we all fear happened in the north, as the north hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees, and people there are paying the price for the crimes of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, poor planning of the Jordanian government, and the shortcomings of the international community in providing assistance to Jordan to cover the cost of the most dangerous population explosion on a country that has always taken in waves of refugees.

Syrian asylum will be long, and an assessment of its risks and costs is necessary, so not one is taken by surprise, God forbid, if an earthquake was caused by a mutual feeling — both among the guests and the hosts — that opportunities for a decent living lacking.




This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.