Research Associate, Middle East and North Africa Programme

Jordan and the international community should take the difficult but necessary steps to maximize the benefit the Syrian refugees can bring to prevent the crisis from having further negative impacts on the country’s most vulnerable people.

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria arrive at the Jordanian border, February 2013. Photo: Jordan Pix/Getty Images.Refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria arrive at the Jordanian border, February 2013. Photo: Getty Images.

Summary

  • Civil war in Syria has caused a refugee crisis in neighbouring Jordan, raising the latter’s population by at least 8 per cent. For Jordanians, the highly visible presence of many thousands of refugees living in their midst – mostly in urban areas, rather than camps – has raised fears over competition for resources and opportunities.
  • Host communities have partly benefited from the presence of refugees and the international aid that has come with them, but many Jordanians feel they are worse off because of the Syrians. The refugee crisis has hit the most vulnerable people in their country hardest.
  • Increased rents, price hikes and strains on public services and public order have left local inhabitants feeling increasingly disenfranchised and neglected by the Jordanian government and international donors. If current trends continue, resentment and alienation in the northern governorates is likely to increase in the coming years.
  • Should Syrians be given more opportunities to earn a living legally, both Syrians and the Jordanian economy would benefit. Such a move would draw opposition, but the benefits would outweigh these costs. In order to minimize the negative political effect, a more open livelihoods policy should be accompanied by a significant increase in international development support for host communities.
  • It does not look like refugees will be able to return to Syria any time soon, no matter how hard life in Jordan becomes. Jordan and the international community should take the difficult but necessary steps to prevent the crisis from making life even worse for the country’s most vulnerable residents. Failure to do so will lead to greater challenges, including an increasingly disenfranchised Jordanian periphery, in the coming years.