Syrian Refugees in Jordan
Yasmine El Gharaibeh - 02/07/2012
Aya, a curly haired five-year-old girl stood in the corner of the room and smiled shyly at us. Her veiled thirty something mother explained the obvious happiness on her daughters face. “I just arrived yesterday, she has been in Jordan alone for about a month now”.
As a response to our puzzled expressions she explained that like many other Syrian families attempting to flee Homs and seek refuge in Jordan, her family was shot at by the Syrian army at the border between the two countries. To ensure Aya’s safety her mother handed her to another family who was able to successfully pass to Jordan under the cover of the Jordanian forces.
The room where Aya’s family now lives in is one of many hosting about 211 families in this refugee camp set by the UNHCR. Passing by the rooms, the revolutionary spirit stared down at us from the camp walls making us stop to read the phrases written in a non artistic way with pens and pencils. The phrases were very similar to those heard across demonstrations in Syria such as like “Horyeh” (Freedom) and “Curse your soul Hafeth”.
In his underground room we met Ahmad who opened the door to a room bare from everything except a few scattered mattresses. In the background stood his twin three-year-old son and daughter.
Like many other injured Syrian refugees who delayed the treatment of months old bullet wounds Ahmad pointed to his shoulder and explained that he has been suffering from a bullet injury, but has delayed treatment until in Jordan due to the deteriorating medical care conditions in Homs.
Leaving to visit other families we wished Ahmad and his family a safe return to their home town, Ahmad jokingly then pointed at his son and said “when we go back this kid’s name must be changed”, his sons name was Maher*.
Recent reports state that the kingdom hosts 210,000 refugees. Due to the strong ties between the Syrian and Jordanian people and the spread out families between the two countries most of the families seeking refuge in Jordan are staying with relatives. While the civil society and small communities continue to attempt to ease the pain of the refugees.
Today there are about 20,000 registered refugees in camps, while the Jordanian government and the UNHCR are preparing camps to host 70,000 more Syrian refugees.
With a country reputation of hosting refugees, the Jordanian government adopted an “open door” policy with the Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan. Nonetheless, recent official concerns about the increased influx of Syrian refugees are reflected through reported “tightening” of the regulations concerning their entrance. The country of “limited resources” is the most affected by the Syrian refuges issue than any other neighbouring country and is actively seeking aid from the international society to help it sustain hosting refugees.
The conditions of Palestinian refugees residing in Syria who fled to Jordan as a result of current events are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Unlike Syrians who can be released after a Jordanian national assumes full legal responsibility for them and pays a certain amount of money, Palestinian refugees cannot be released through the same method and thus cannot leave “holding centres” (guarded residential compounds) set up for them.
Reports state that there are around 480 Palestinians in special holding centres in the northern region of Jordan. The governmental decision that does not allow Palestinian refugees coming from Syria to leave their holding centres springs from the fear of an increasing influx of the Palestinian refugees over the coming months. In a country whose half of the population is of Palestinian origins, the Jordanian-Palestinian sensitive issue once again comes to the scene of a new crisis.
Sahar, a fair skinned twenty something woman embodies this crisis. With her five children surrounding her she explained their living situation. “My husband has the Syrian passport and therefore was able to live in a rented house in Amman, but as I am Palestinian I cannot leave the camp.”
Speaking with a sense of hopelessness in her voice, Sahar continued “we left a dangerous situation in Syria hoping to find relief, but did not expect our stay in Jordan to be so troublesome.”
Like most of the mothers in that camp, Sahar says that they are short on cloths, having left Homs in a hurry, the only clothing they now own are the ones they were wearing at the time. “Living in a camp is hard” she said, “people like you come and go, they come for visits but we will stay here and no matter how long we stay, we will always be guests. We left everything in Homs”.
Other reported testimonials from refugees draw a far worse humanitarian situation as women report incidents of rape in detention rooms and young men tell horrifying stories of torture.
Despite the escalating violence in Syria, the refugees have no wish but to return to their country and live freely. For them the light at the end of the tunnel is distant but unmistakable and as for Aya she will keep on smiling as long as her mother is by her side.
Yasmine El Gharaibeh