Tuesday 20 March 2018

500,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan could join the exodus to Europe

Syrian refugee children at the Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq. Photo: Reuters
Syrian refugee children at the Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq. Photo: Reuters

Raf Sanchez and Richard Spencer

Half a million Syrian refugees living in Jordan say they will consider joining the exodus to Europe if they do not get jobs or other help, aid workers said yesterday after a plea by King Abdullah for more assistance.

The Jordanian king, one of the West's closest allies in the Middle East and in the war against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), said his country was at "boiling point" as it struggled to support around a million refugees.

He added his voice to those of many aid workers who say refugees fear they have no future. They are in many cases unable to work without permits and risk deportation to refugee camps or back to Syria if they take illegal jobs.

Care International said it had found in a survey that half of Jordan's refugees were thinking of taking the risk of travelling to Europe because they lacked a "future with dignity".

More than 4.5 million Syrians are believed to have fled the country, a fifth of the pre-war population. Around 8 million others are internally displaced. The largest number have gone to Turkey, but the million each who have gone to Lebanon and Jordan make up a much larger proportion of those countries' populations - a quarter in Lebanon and about a fifth in Jordan.

Jordan is hosting 635,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UN but the king said the total number was around 1.4 million. Care International estimates the figure at 1 million. Fearful of the effects on its population, half of which are Palestinian refugees and their descendants, Jordan has limited work permits for refugees.

Aid workers say families send children out to work as a result, as they are less likely to be punished if caught.

"In Jordan, half of families have children as primary or joint primary breadwinners," said Peter Salama, the regional director of Unicef.

Care International said its studies showed that children were typically earning €55 a month doing jobs such as cleaning floors in cafés.

It is hoping to use a conference of aid donors in London tomorrow to appeal for funds to support families, as well as to urge governments to allow refugees to work.

King Abdullah also said European countries and other nations were aware they needed to provide incentives to enable host countries to stop refugees travelling further afield.

"They realise that if they don't help Jordan, it's going to be more difficult for them to deal with the refugee crisis," he told the BBC. "Sooner or later the dam is going to burst." (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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