Syria's urban refugees in Jordan falling through the aid safety net

By mhart

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As thousands of Syrians continue to flee conflict every day, seeking safety in neighboring countries, humanitarian aid organizations who are responding to the refugee crisis warn that the refugees risk being cut off from help as they seek shelter in Jordan’s towns and cities.  

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban areas, outside of formal camp settings. Aid organizations say it makes it harder for them to access vital help as the refugee population is widely dispersed in Jordan’s cities and towns.

Assessments carried out in host communities in Jordan by aid organizations Oxfam and CARE International have found that refugees are facing increased debt as they struggle to pay for soaring rent and rising costs for food, water, and other basic essentials.

Many refugees in urban areas of Jordan are living in unheated or unfurnished apartments or garages, which are often overcrowded, with as many as twenty people, normally from extended family groups, sharing two or three rooms.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of CARE International UK said: “The refugee crisis in urban areas is far less visible, but no less serious, than in the refugee camps. No matter where refugees seek shelter, we must ensure that they do not continue suffering.”

The Jordanian government is to be commended for keeping its border open and providing assistance for the refugees, despite severely strained resources. Jordanian host communities have also been extremely generous, but tensions are starting to arise because of the increase in refugee numbers and mounting pressure on limited services.

Syrian refugees have access to primary health care and schooling in Jordan, but often the available services are already stretched to the limit or far from their homes. Rental prices have gone up two to three times in the last year and there’s also been an increase in food and gas prices.

Oxfam’s Syria response crisis manager, Francis Lacasse, said: “Syrian refugees in host communities urgently need help. As long as they have no access to income, their problems will only multiply. People are already running out of money for rent and basic needs; refugees are taking loans from each other, but soon there will be nothing left for them to borrow.”

“Families will be forced to desperate measures to get by; many are already obliged to beg for food. They are deeply ashamed to do this, but they have no choice.”

The number of refugees fleeing Syria into Jordan has surged since the beginning of the year. More than 367,000 have sought registration with the UNHCR although the Jordanian government estimates the total figure is as high as 420,000.

Research by the aid organizations shows that average level of debt among urban refugees is $650, which represents about three months' rent. 

Oxfam is increasing its response, planning to provide cash assistance to some of the most vulnerable populations in Jordan and support both host families and refugees with water.

To support Oxfam’s work assisting Syrian refugees, please click here.