Region | Syria

Waves of refugees from Syria have become a burden for Jordan

So far, Jordan has received more than 90,000 Syrians — crossing legally and illegally — according to officials

  • By Jumana Al Tamimi, Associate Editor
  • Published: 00:00 April 10, 2012
  • Gulf News

Young refugees at their temporary home in Jordan
  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • Young refugees at their temporary home in Jordan.

Dubai With the escalation of bloodshed in Syria since the beginning of this year, more and more Syrians are fleeing their country and crossing — legally and illegally — the southern borders to Jordan.

So far, Jordan has received more than 90,000 Syrians, according to officials.

Their increasing numbers have received growing attention from both local and international relief and charity organisations that are working on meeting their humanitarian needs, which range from providing food items, to paying for their accommodation and their children's schooling.

While it is difficult to have a precise figure of Syrians seeking shelter in Jordan, different parties give varying figures.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh announced recently that the number of Syrians who crossed to Jordan, both legally and illegally, has passed 90,000 since the eruption of the violence in Syria more than a year ago.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Nearly 7,000 of them registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and two thousand more await registration.

Among the Syrians crossing the border, nearly 15,000 "guests" registered with the national Red Crescent Society (IFRC).

They live "in all Jordanian governorates, even in Ma'an, which is some 220km south of Amman," Mohammad Tarifi, head of public and media relations at IFRC, told Gulf News.

The Jordanian relief organisation, in cooperation with Red Crescent societies in the UAE, and other Gulf countries, is distributing food items for registered families. The food aid includes rice, sugar, cooking oil, canned food, cheese, pastas and beans.

Paying rent

Other local societies are extending their helping hands. Some are paying the rents for Syrian "guests" at apartments, including the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Society, which "is leading the efforts of reliving the Syrian [refugees in Jordan] and meet their demands whether being in camps or outside the camps," said Mousa Shtwei, sociology veteran expert and director of the Strategic Studies Centre at the University of Jordan, in an interview with Gulf News.

He was referring to the two camps that were established in the two northern Jordanian small cities of Mafraq and Ramtah, which is across the border from Daraa.

Many Syrians are said to have taken shelter with their relatives in the two border cities. Most are living in Jordanian cities and outside the camps, Jordanians said.

Unicef grant

Earlier this month, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) granted Jordan $1 million (Dh3.67 million) to help the country provide schooling for thousands of Syrian children.

"Unicef's grant will assist the government in coping with the burden of hosting around 5,500 Syrian school children," Unicef said in a statement.

Apart from Jordan, Syrians are also fleeing to Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. Late last month, the UN appealed for $84 million to help Syrian refugees in the four countries.

Jordan has played host to several waves of refugees in the past decades as a result of regional conflicts.

It welcomed Iraqis escaping war and economic hardship in their country. At some point, it also received Lebanese escaping military conflicts.

Asked on the impact of the new wave of "guests" Jordan is receiving, Shtwei said: "The answer depends on how long they are going to stay in Jordan. If the crisis prolongs and their number increases, definitely this will have a major impact on the standards of living, and the offered services such as education, health and water supplies."

Marriages: Cause for concern?

In the wake of the bloodshed in Syria, several cases of marriages between Syrian girls and Jordanian men have been reported — with the dowry in some cases being very little.

But sociologists note that it is too early to judge how big the phenomenon is.

"Until now, it is based on notices and impressions more than accurate information and figures," said veteran Jordanian sociologist Mousa Shtwei.

"We need more time to pass" before such figures are provided by the concerned authorities, Shtwei added. Marriages between Jordanians and Syrians, especially in the northern part of Jordan, are not unheard of.

Low dowries

But recently, ordinary Jordanians started talking privately of some cases where Syrian fathers expressed their willingness to marry off their daughters to Jordanian men for low dowries — sometimes for paltry amounts between 10 Jordanian dinars and 50 Jordanian dinars (between $14 and $70).

However, social experts, including Shtwei, have said marriage is sometimes viewed as an "opportunity" for refugees to shed some of their social and financial obligations, especially during such turbulent times.

While some people feel relieved from the burden of supporting their children once they get married, many men don't feel obliged to apply the same traditions and norms and meet the same demands, if they are married to women who are not from their society.

Gulf News
A Syrian refugee at Boynuyogun Refugee Camp

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