Aug 07, 2013 | 23:38 JORDAN TIMES
Jordan, a country with limited resources, has become the main refuge for Syrians fleeing the violence in their country, with thousands entering the Kingdom on a daily basis at one point.
Recent studies indicate that there will be one Syrian for every six Jordanians by the end of this year.
There are currently over half-a-million Syrian refugees in Jordan, with around 120,000 residing in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, which has become the fourth largest population centre in the Kingdom.
This has become a major issue and a threat to Jordan and Jordanians. The UN and some of Jordan’s friends have helped and although the support is much less than what is required, the government and UN agencies are working hard to manage this new city in the north that was nonexistent two years ago.
What is not well publicised is the fact that 70 per cent of the Syrian refugees are living in Jordanian towns and cities, not refugee camps. This is causing rising discontent among Jordanians, as many Syrians have been getting their jobs for lower salaries.
In a country with a high unemployment rate that is just starting to recover from the deleterious effects of the Arab Spring in the region, many of the scarce jobs that were available are now out of reach for Jordanians.
Despite its limited natural resources, Jordan is known for its hospitality and has never closed its borders to its neighbours from Palestine, Iraq or Syria. But with the unending Syrian civil war and the endless influx of refugees, the Kingdom has reached a critical level whereby closing the borders will soon become a national requirement for the country’s survival unless proper financial support is forthcoming from the US, Europe and the Gulf countries.
To explain the urgency of the current situation, let me cite some examples of the result of sharing public resources with Syrian refugees.
In the northern city of Mafraq, the population has grown from 90,000 to 200,000, while in a hospital there, 12 of the16 beds in its ICU are occupied by Syrians. In addition, many Jordanians are complaining of a shortage of medicines.
Schools have also doubled their class sizes and are doing two shifts per day to accommodate the increase in pupils, which has obviously affected the quality of education for both Jordanian and Syrian students.
For a country that prides itself in being the 5th medical tourism destination worldwide and first in the Arab world, in addition to having the best education system in the region, this situation is striking at the very heart of every Jordanian.
As a Jordanian, I would like to ask everyone who can help to not leave my country alone in these difficult times. A lack of water, sanitation and waste removal services, as well as sharp increases in the prices of essential foods and house rents are affecting many low and middle-income Jordanians who are quickly losing the virtue of hospitality.
Support for Syrians should not be with words alone; we expect our friends to be more responsible and start putting their money where their mouths are.
Jordan has been a close ally of the West and a shelter for all Arabs in troubled times and has never closed its borders in the face of human tragedy, so let us not suffer and pay a heavy price for taking the moral stand of supporting our neighbours in their times of need.
Deema Alam Farraj