By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto – Jul 29,2018 – JORDAN TIMES
AMMAN — UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock on Friday praised the “excellent” cooperation between the UN and the governments of Jordan, Iraq and Turkey in the operations of cross-border assistance to Syria authorised by the relevant Security Council resolutions.
The remarks came during the briefing to the UN Security Council held in New York, where Lowcock presented the monthly report of the secretary general on the humanitarian situation in Syria.
According to the report, the cross-border assistance mechanism remains a “vital” part of the humanitarian response, with 34 convoys of life-saving assistance delivered to over 800,000 people across the border during the month of June, while the United Nations Monitoring Mechanism (UNMM) continued its operations within Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
However, the official noted that the escalation of violence in the Syrian provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida on June 27 forced the UN to suspend its operations to deliver aid across the border in Jordan due to hostilities. “But the pre-stored supplies sent in anticipation of the attacks enabled the UN and its partners to provide emergency assistance to some 189,000 people in the southern region when violence escalated in the three provinces,” Lowcock added.
“The humanitarian situation at Rukban, on the Jordan-Syria border, remains dire, with reports of diarrhea and dehydration in the camp,” the official warned, noting that “discussions on the deployment of an aid convoy to the area continue”.
On June 26, officials reiterated that Jordan will not take any more Syrian refugees and the border with Syria will not be reopened.
“The Kingdom will not receive any new refugees from Syria under any circumstances,” Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said after a meeting with Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh and heads of the chamber’s committees, stressing that the Kingdom had received Syrian refugees “above its capacity and will not be able to receive more”.
“A political solution to the crisis in Syria is a must,” the premier said, echoing Jordan’s stance on the conflict in the northern neighbour since it began seven years ago.
“Jordan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom,” noted Musa Shteiwi, director of the University of Jordan’s (UJ) Centre of Strategic Studies, adding that “in spite of this, Jordan has opened its borders since the start of the crisis in Syria and is home to 1.3 million Syrian refugees”.
“Jordan has done more than enough, and the international community needs to listen this time and take action,” he told The Jordan Times in a recent interview, stressing that the Kingdom has “serious economic and security concerns, and has never given up on its humanitarian role — but this time, Amman is keen on sending a message to the entire world that it cannot tolerate the situation anymore”.
Concluding the briefing, Lowcock warned that “the UN efforts to keep pace with the rapidly evolving situation depend on support from many member states,” noting that “this includes financial contributions to the projects in the Humanitarian Response Plan, aid provided by neighbouring governments, and in-kind donations”.
“Unfortunately, the UN appeal for Syria this year remains substantially underfunded,” he added, stressing that “sustaining and increasing the confidence of donors depends on the ability of the UN and the humanitarian organisations we work with to independently assess needs, prioritise responses and provide awareness that help in reaching those in the greatest need”.
“Jordan stopped receiving Syrian refugees after donors failed to cover the budget needed to assist them,” economist Wajdi Makhamreh told The Jordan Times, stressing that “Jordan started accepting refugees after receiving guarantees that enough assistance would be provided, but this was not the case and the Kingdom had to handle expenses from its own budget”.
“We could say that Jordan was in a good position to deal with the crisis over the past few years, but the lack of support has placed a great burden on the local economy in terms of a higher budget deficit, education and health expenses,” Makhamreh added, expressing his belief that “Jordan cannot accept more refugees unless donors and neighbouring countries come forward, as the current economic situation is already taking a toll on Jordanians”.
“For the seventh year, Jordan screams and donor countries keep on believing that their support is sufficient,” economist Issam Qadamani commented on the remarks, noting that “this may have allowed doubts to arise on the management of the support received”.
“The reality is that more than 80 per cent of the Syrians live in the main cities around the camps and prefer to work in the informal economy, hindering the efforts of the government to integrate them into the national economy and take control of the situation,” Qadamani continued, warning that “it is difficult to determine the actual number of refugees in Jordan, with 1.3 million according to official statistics as compared with the 650,000 registered with UNHCR”.