It is clear the number of internal Syrian dislocation nearing borders with Jordan is increasing, with hope of seeking refuge in Jordan. Over the duration of weeks only, the number leaped to around 26 thousand people, according to the UNHCR envoy to Jordan Andrew Harper. The number is also expected to rise over the coming period of time, pending developments on the south Syrian front.
The current settings entail that Jordan, in coordination with the UNHCR, delivers basic aid and provisions to dislocated Syrians fleeing the woes of war and destruction, providing them, minimally, with food and medicine and other primary means of sustenance. This however, does not change the fact that they are enduring harsh, complex conditions camping out for refuge from the terrors of war in their own country.
Jordan’s position from this influx of refugees is clear, and is based on two main premises. First, asylum or refugee access is no longer as viable an option as it was over past years; the number of refugees in Jordan has reached 1.3 million; 630 thousand of them are registered with the UN as refugees. Accordingly, the second premise —notwithstanding the tragedy of Syrian refugees and certainly mindful of it, is the question of the primacy of Jordan’s national security.
As mentioned, the number of refugees will probably increase over the coming period. Their return, on the other hand, is dependent on a variety of factors; considering specialised research and studies indicating that half of the refugees don’t go back to their countries, even if things go back to the way they used to be, relatively, especially if the fighting stopped and violence was suspended.
The influx of Syrian refugees who left their homeland comprises today the largest influx of refugees in modern history. And the standing situation indicates many of them will not go back to Syria, since thousands of children were born in asylum countries, including Jordan. Equally frail, are those who sought refuge at young ages, whom are reared to grow in the Kingdom. So, how can we imagine them, particularly younglings, going back? Put aside that an end to the Syrian war still seems like a distant possibility, followed by long many years of reconstruction; the point is, that refugees in Jordan now make up one third of the Country’s population; they have needs and requirements.
Notably, the recent census shows that resident non-Jordanians comprise nearly 30 per cent of the total population, half of whom are Syrians (1.3 million people), concentrated in the Capital (436 thousand), Irbid (343 thousand), Mafraq (208 thousand), and finally, in Zarqaa (175 thousand). The number of Egyptians in Jordan roughly hovers around 636 thousand, most of them concentrated in Amman (390 thousand). Moreover, Palestinians without a national identifier count 634 thousand people. Added all the Sudanese, Iraqi, and other refugees.
The presence of such a number of non-Jordanians in Jordan, refugees or else, comprising 3 million of the total population of Jordan (9.5 million people) means that there is a pressing need for a clear plan to manage the situation contrary to the current way of how these files are being administrated by the variety of respective institutions, organisations, and ministries; this myopia leads to the de-capacitation of a unified national vision, weakening our position before the international donor community.
This crucial plan requires new insight, one that is pillared on the introduction of a commission —be it temporary— to manage refugee affairs on Jordanian turf, directly supervened by the Prime Ministry. A commission whose main objective is to present a clear, precise, descriptory visualisation of the scale of refuge in Jordan, the negative outcomes of it, and the burdens Jordan is weighed with; more so, to investigate, at the same time, and allocate what added value having refugees in Jordan brings, in parts and whole.
In other words, what is required is a thorough understanding of strengths and weaknesses, as well as the construction of a plan that enables the efficient and effective management of this enormous file in its every detail.
Previously, a ministry was assigned to expatriate affair, and that is good, with the main difference being that expats support Jordan and the economy, while the issue of refugees is a complex question with various implications; that is nonetheless divided over five or six ministries, making the compiled efforts towards this situation utterly unorganised.
The suggestion of comprising a Refugee Affairs Commission may face disapproval and resistance by several parties, and may even be dropped by the deeply instilled bureaucracy. But it is, practically and logically, seemingly pressing in regards to handing the issue of refugees in Jordan, which does not seem to have a soon-impending resolution.