Sunday 26 February 2017

Jordan is at the forefront of the Syrian humanitarian effort and the fight with Isil

Mazen Homoud in London

A migrant lies on the ground after he fainted during a scuffle with a police cordon on they way to board buses at the train station in the city of Tovarnik, close to the Croatia - Serbia border.
A migrant lies on the ground after he fainted during a scuffle with a police cordon on they way to board buses at the train station in the city of Tovarnik, close to the Croatia - Serbia border.

The ongoing refugee crisis, and emergency talks among EU interior ministers regarding the 300,000 displaced people who have arrived in Europe since January, makes me think of our situation in Jordan.

Today, Jordan hosts approximately 1.4 million Syrians, of whom 647,000 are registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Of these, only 100,000 live in refugee camps, while another 1.3 million are hosted within local communities. In total, Syrians now make up 21pc of Jordan's 6.7 million inhabitants.

To put this in perspective, 20pc of Britain's population amounts to 12.8 million people. Belgium has a population of 11.2 million and Greece has 10.8 million.

Imagine if all the Belgians - or every Greek - or, in fact, if the combined populations of the EU's eight smallest countries had migrated to Britain in about two and-a-half years. Then you would understand what Jordan has been forced to cope with.

By way of contrast, I remember the panic that accompanied the revelation that net migration to the UK had reached 228,000 during the 12 months to June 2014. That constituted 0.3 pc of the British population.

Yet, despite the numbers we have taken, the 1.3 million Syrians living in communities in Jordan are not denied access to the labour market, nor to the health and education services, which are paid for by the government. In fact, our schools in the northern regions are so full of extra students that they are running several shifts.

In the shops, subsidised consumer goods do not discriminate between a Jordanian and a Syrian, despite the economic impact the refugees are having. When a country like ours imports 96pc of its energy, it makes a big difference when we suddenly have to provide for 1.4 million more people.

And what about water? Jordan has so little that we are the fourth-poorest country in the world when measured by water resources. Thanks to the jump in our population, our national consumption has increased by 20pc - and by 40pc in northern areas, closest to Syria.

Despite the instability in the region around us, Jordan is at the forefront of the global fight against extremism and terrorism.

We are a leading member of the international coalition fighting Daesh (Isil) and all those who promote a hate-based ideology. Despite these challenges, our political reform process steams ahead at home, as parliament reviews a new elections law as well as decentralisation, devolving powers to citizens in cities and towns across the Kingdom. Abroad, Jordanian field hospitals help the wounded and sick in Afghanistan, Gaza, Ramallah, Kurdistan, and Haiti.

We also contribute the largest number of police and the fifth largest number of military personnel to UN peacekeeping operations.

As this refugee reality climaxes into the world's greatest migrant crisis since World War II, the international community should practically recognise that Jordan has been shouldering the brunt on its behalf for years.

True enough, the outside world remains generous in providing for the refugee camps, one of which, Za'atari, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited this week. It has become the fourth-largest city in Jordan. But the international community has delivered only 34pc of the money pledged to fund our Syrian Refugee Response Plan, a document co-authored with the UN; international aid meets only a fraction of what it costs us to host the refugees.

We are told that since we are a middle-income country, we are not eligible for direct support. But our projected budget deficit for 2015 is 3.5pc of GDP.

Just as Britain declared its moral responsibility towards Syrian refugees, so have Jordanians, who have inherited the values of their Hashemite leadership. Under the guidance of His Majesty King Abdullah II, we carry out our duty to support our displaced brethren in need, as we have throughout our history.

We in Jordan do this wholeheartedly and in the face of Almighty God. If anyone understands what a refugee crisis is, it is us.

His Excellency Mazen Homoud is the Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Great Britain

Irish Independent

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