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 ser