Syrian Refugees in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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Addison Grace BurnsSyrian Refugees in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Zaatari Camp in Northern JordanThey killed my son. He wasnt involved in any demonstrations, just working the fields, when a sniper shot him in the head. Even then, though, I didnt want to leave. But then we heard stories of Assads men, the shabbiha, raping women in Deraa, systematically using sexual violence as a weapon. I was scared for my daughters so we fled. We hid in the forests for three months, preparing to cross. We managed to avoid any Syrian troops, and climbed over the border at night. Then we were stopped by a Jordanian soldier and I was scared he might send us back as we had no papers. He just said alf ahla [a thousand welcomes]. I wept. (Phillips pp.34)

Beginning in late 2010 with the Arab Spring, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has undergone a continual socio-political and economic upheaval in varying degrees in nearly all of its consisting countries - a region containing Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Israel/ Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Cyprus. The Syrian Civil War, a conflict that has lasted for upwards of three years, has left an estimated six million displaced Syrians, with around two million now residing in neighboring countries. An already resource poor country, Jordan, located in the region known as the Levant, is now home to over five hundred and fifty thousand Syrian refugees, with an average of one thousand crossing borders daily. Jordan, the country with the highest refugee to indigenous population ratio in the world (Chatelard, 2010), fourth poorest country in the world for water resources, and possessing a fourteen percent unemployment rate, runs risk of political instability due to their growing inability to maintain an increasing refugee population. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has poured six hundred million dollars into aiding Jordans Syrian refugee crisis, to date, primarily through establishing camps and supporting the majority of their upkeep. The most well known of these camps is Zaatari Refugee Camp which is located in Northern Jordan in the Mafraq Governance. With a current registered population of around one hundred and thirteen thousand, Zaatari is considered Jordans fourth largest city. Issues of water resources, medical accessibility, asylum statuses, and employment opportunities have led to economic strain on the host country, violent rioting and demonstrations, and high tensions throughout the camp.

General Jordanian Refugee HistoryJordan received its first significant wave of refugees in 1948 with the creation of the Israeli state. The displacement of Palestinians left around nine hundred thousand Arabs to be relocated to neighboring countries. During the first Arab-Israeli war, Jordan received a large influx of refugees and later annexed the West Bank of the Jordan River a part of pre-1948 Palestine. Within two years, Jordan's population increased from 500,000 to 1.5 million, one-third of them refugees. (Chatelard, 2010) On June 5th 1967, the state of Israel bombed Egyptian airfields, prompting a conflict which lasted until June 11th, now known as the Six Day War. The results of this war lead to the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the displacement of an additional four hundred thousand Palestinians. Roughly 175,000 of them were also refugees from the 1948 war. As of June 2010, Palestinian refugees and their descendants registered with and clients of UNRWA numbered over 1.9 million of Jordan's total population of 6 million. (Chatelard, 2010) Other countries in the region with significant Palestinian refugee/ asylum populations, as of 2013, include Lebanon with 445,144, Iran with 886,468 and Syria with 1,242,391. Jordans current Palestinian population is an estimated 2,430,589. (The World Bank, 2013)Discussing Palestinian refugees in Jordan can be very a grey area to navigate through. Though initially categorized under refugee status, shortly following the first population wave in 1948, the Jordanian government began to grant citizenship to all incoming Palestinians, giving them access to Jordanian education, employment, health service opportunities, and legal rights. This lack of definitiveness in citizenship between Jordanians and Palestinians, however, has led to some economic issues for the Jordanian government. Because the majority of Palestinians are not recognized under a refugee or asylum seeking title, international aid foundations donate a significantly less about of money to development programs. All of the economic issues brought on by this high population increase were then offset by the poor Jordanian government. As it stands only one and a half million peoples of Palestinian descent are registered as refugees with the United Nations Refugee Welfare Agency (UNRWA). (UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, 2013) The first Jordanian refugee camp for Palestinians was created in 1949, and nine others have been conceived since then. However, these camps act as small, impoverished suburbs rather than legitimate camps administered by development organizations or governance. Some Jordanian Palestinians participate in a remittance system in the Gulf States. However, during the Gulf War, Iraqi occupied Kuwait expelled all Palestinian workers back to their countries of residence. Similarly, a number of Palestinians who resided in Iraq during the Gulf War and 2003 Invasion were also displaced. Lastly, in 1988, for fear of a political imbalance between Palestinian Jordanians and Jordanian Jordanians, the Jordanian government began to revoke the citizenship status previously granted to them. First of all, the Jordanian Constitution, adopted in 1952, states that citizenship is a matter to be regulated by a law, and the Jordanian Citizenship Law was indeed adopted in 1954, replacing that of 1928 and its amendment. According to this law, it is possible to revoke the citizenship of a Jordanian citizen who is in the civil service of a foreign authority or government. The citizen mustbe notified by the Jordanian government to leave that service and, if the citizen does not comply, the Council of Ministries is the body with the authority that is able to decide to revoke his citizenship. Even if the Council does decide to revoke the citizenship, this decision must then be ratified by the King, and even then, the citizen whose citizenship was revoked has the right to challenge the Council of Ministries decision in the Jordanian High Court, and it is this courts decision that is binding and final. These procedures are being completely ignored when the citizenship of a Jordanian of Palestinian origin is revoked. (Jamjoum, 2013) These incidences continually increased the number of Palestinian refugees and their descendents in Jordan.Many upper class Iraqis during the Gulf War and 2003 Invasion chose to flee the country for fear of political and economic ramifications from the Hussein administration. An estimated two hundred thousand Iraqis have resided since then in Jordan at one point in time. The difference between Palestinian and Syrian, which will be discussed later in this essay, and Iraqi refugee status, was that the Jordanian government never officially recognized their displacement. The Iraqi population in Jordan was simply classified under guests status under the law. This limited Iraqi access to governmental services, education, medicine and employment, along with any hope of help from international aid foundations. Though rarely mistreated, Iraqis in Jordan are put at larger disadvantages than those placed who are officially considered refugees. Displaced citizens of higher status in Iraq were now faced with lower end jobs in Jordan. Senior Iraqi doctors, who were top specialists in their own country, found themselves working as junior doctors in Jordan. Some, such as junior doctors who are working to specialize in Jordanian teaching hospitals, are not paid any salary as these hospitals take advantage of the fact that most of these doctors do not have legal residency permits and thus are not eligible to work. (Sassoon pp.90) However, the wealth that these refugees brought into the country from individual savings and the selling of their property in Iraq caused rising inflation in the Jordanian economy. Iraqis were encouraged to use Jordan as a temporary living space while they sought livelihood in other countries. Many chose to do this and would most commonly depart from Jordan in less than five years. Remaining Iraqis, the majority being lower class, often seek asylum status to remain in Jordan, while the wealthier minority buys residence permits.

Syrian Civil War History and General Displacement

The Syrian Civil War began in early 2011 with minor demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assads administration policies. Escalation of these demonstrations began in March of that year with protestments over the federal detainment of children who wrote anti-governmental graffiti. Concerns of human rights, torture, censorship, and police brutality fueled protests in several cities across Syria. Handfuls of demonstrators were often killed due to Assad military force attempts to contain riots. Despite disapproval from allies and neighboring countries, allegations of governmental brutality and reports of large scale military occupations of major cities continued to rapidly immerge. In spite of the international outcry provoked by the killings, the Syrian government launched new operations to silence protests, deploying large numbers of troops equipped with tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the cities of Dar, Bniys, and Homs, three centres of antigovernment protest. In several areas of the country, the government imposed a communications blackout,shutting down telephone and Internet service. In Dar security forces cut the towns water and electricity supplies. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013) The climax of alleged Assad brutality was on August 21st 2013, when neighborhoods of the capital of Damascus were hit with chemical weapons, killing an estimated one thousand and four hundred people. This elicited growing international concern and a temporary threat of national intervention from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Intervention has not been taken as of yet. The war between anti-Assad rebels and the established government regime continues to this day.

The resulting displacement from the Syrian Civil War has been widespread. Syria is in an internal displacement crisis. For hundreds of thousands of men, women and children being forced from their homes and livelihoods by the current violence, hunger and dehydration is as much of a threat as the bombs and the bullets. IDMCs monitoring suggests that over one in every fifteen Syrians has been internally displaced following the 17 month conflict that has started as a popular uprising and has turned into a full blown civil war. The magnitude of this displacement means that it has now become intricately linked with the spreading of the conflict. (Charron, 2012) Excluding internal displacement, neighboring countries that receive a high frequency of Syrians is Turkey with 519,938, Lebanon with 818,085, Egypt with 127,495, Iraq with 202,976, and finally Jordan with 553,311. (UNHCR, 2013) Granted, these statistics only consist of Syrian refugees registered with the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees and the actual number is suspected to be much higher. Conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey are reportedly much higher than those in other countries. Due to Turkeys larger GDP, the country has been able to maintain the growing population with little aid from international development organizations. Turkey has established refugee camps along its southern borders to support incoming citizens from Northern Syria. However, it is speculated that, due to the increasing numbers of residents, camp conditions are rapidly degrading. Some refugees, who are free to travel around Turkey and speak to foreigners outside the camps, are more ambivalent about camp life. It is our prison! says Mohammad, a teenage from Aleppo outside Kilis camp, The guards treat us badly and life is too expensive. The Turkish government gives each refugee 20 Turkish Lira (7) a week but, says Mohammad, this is barely enough for food. (Phillips pp.37) Lebanon is currently attempting to establish refugee camps for their large rise in Syrian population, but it is speculated that this will be difficult due to the Lebanese economy. The Lebanese economy is facing difficult days as a result of the deteriorating political and security situation in the Arab world in general, particularly as a result of the Syrian conflict and its impact on Lebanon, Mikati told economists. (The Daily Star, 2013) In Egypt, around one and a half thousand Syrian refugees are reportedly being detained and encouraged to return to Syria. Palestinian refugees from Syria are especially vulnerable because Egyptian policy prevents them from seeking protection from the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), contrary to UNHCRs mandate under the 1951 Refugee Convention. (Human Rights Watch, 2013)

Syrians in Jordan and the UNHCR

Jordan has a population of 553,311 registered Syrian refugees out of a gross population of 6.3 million. Initially, Jordan maintained its open border policy to Syrians just as it has to Iraqis, Lebanese, and Palestinians in the past. Many enter the country without proper documentation of resources with little governmental obstacles. However, this past month, the rapidly rising number of Syrians entering the country daily has reportedly forced the Jordanian government to begin denying those fleeing access across the border. Some who are already residing in the country are now allegedly facing deportment. The Jordanian government denies these allegations. Jordanian government spokesman Dr Mohammed al-Momani told the BBC that there was no change of Jordan's position regarding refugees. Refugees that reach our borders are allowed in, in accordance with international law and Jordan's historical position of providing safety to those who seek it, he said. (BBC News, 2013) Zaatari, a refugee camp located in Northern Jordan that opened June of 2012, is host to over one hundred and thirteen thousand residents and is considered Jordans fourth largest city by population. It is also considered the worlds second largest refugee camp. The UNHCR provides basic living conditions and medical care to those registered at Zaatari and is funded primarily through international donors. It costs about $500,000 (320,000) a day to run, with half a million pieces of bread and 4.2 million litres of water distributed daily. This makeshift piece of Syria has three hospitals meaning that healthcar...


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