FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Plight of Syria’s Refugees

by JONATHAN WOODROW MARTIN

There has recently been some furore here in the UK over the current coalition government’s refusal to take any of the over 2.3 million Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict. Nigel Farage, the leader of a small but growing political party, The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), helped fuel the flames by surprisingly (UKIP stands on a broadly anti-immigration platform) calling for Syrian refugees to be given asylum in the UK.  It turned out he only meant a certain type of Syrian, Christians.  Nice.

This tale has been disproved this week by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, who has confirmed that the UK has in fact taken 1,500 Syrian refugees in the past year, compared to Germany which has taken 20,000 refugees . The coalition claimed before this revelation that its “generous” giving of over £500 million pounds worth of aid to the refugee program is a better way to help these people.  This lack of real provision for re-settlement by European countries, including the UK, has contributed to the continual huge rise in Syrians fleeing to neighbouring states in the region and staying there.

Over half of this aid given by the UK goes to the regions governments to help them support the refugees.  There is a troubling situation facing many thousands of the refugees based in these countries surrounding Syria and in particular, Jordan.  Jordan holds the second highest population of Syrian refugees at over 570,000 and rising daily. I have read over a report, commissioned by REACH in co-operation with UNICEF, which raises concerns over the forced eviction of Syrian refugees from their Informal Tented Settlements (ITS) by Jordanian security forces.  These tented settlements are defined as a collection of 10 tents or more with no permission given by the Jordanian authorities for their erection.  The report (focused on northern Jordan) explains that many of the inhabitants from these settlements are from specific communities in Syria who are looking to avoid the intra-community problems that have surfaced in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-run refugee camp, Zaatari.  The report concludes that;

Long term asset depletion, compounded by high degrees of risk and minimal protection mean that the people living in ITS are unable to afford or access basic services that might otherwise be available to them.

Similarly, although sanitation and other WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) needs are highly context-specific, infrastructure rehabilitation, hygiene promotion and facilitation of access to latrines could effectively address many of the entrenched health and hygiene issues that refugees in ITS deal with. Unfortunately, this is often limited by the land rights of the ITS tenants which is non-existent, constantly under the threat of eviction, thus requiring mobile or temporary solutions.

The clear conclusion is that these tents do not provide for the long-term needs of the refugees.  The Jordanian argument is that these settlements are illegal by Jordanian law and there are already huge official refugee camps set up to house and care for the fleeing refugees. As highlighted above, the REACH report attests to the extreme vulnerability of the settlements in comparison to Zaatari refugee camp. In its conclusion however, the suggestion that land-rights could improve the situation for the inhabitants indicates that there is another option open to Jordanian authorities other than the threat of eviction and eviction itself. Can the Jordanian authorities be entirely blamed for this violent move against the residents of these settlements?  The human rights of the refugees must remain paramount but Jordan has continually opened its doors to Syrians (and Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria) and many others fleeing civil war and ethnic cleansing in the past, including Lebanese and Palestinians.  Despite this generosity many of these same refugees do not have full access to the same services/opportunities, even after many years in Jordan, which are available to Jordanians.  Will this be the long-term fate for the Syrians?

The fact that the tensions that existed within Syria have transposed themselves to the refugee camps should not be a surprise for the UN or Jordanians, due to the documentation of this in previous refugee crises and camps.  Accusations of mistreatment of the refugees within Zaatari have also been made.  This is one of the main problems when you are a refugee, even when based in a fairly well-established and funded camp.  You are almost completely reliant on the camps administration to feed, water, clean and protect you, this for a people who prior to March 2011 were civilians in jobs with families and friends, living a normal civilian life.  In comparison the report on the ITS indicates that a substantial percentage (32.5%) of those refugees surveyed living in the ITS in areas of northern Jordan such as Mafraq and, are able to rely not just on financial assistance from NGOs, friends and families but also on agricultural waged labour in the region.  Despite the precariousness of the settlements this pull of work and subsequent self-worth is a significant factor in their creation.

The evictions which are currently restricted to the northern areas of Jordan look set to widen. An Aid worker who is currently in Jordan informed me that;

At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be coordination between different governors and informal settlement residents in Al Mafraq Governorate are bearing the brunt of the evictions, but there are strong indications from UNHCR that this will soon become nation-wide.

The optimistic long-term solution to the refugee problem is an end to the conflict with political and community reconciliation.  However this does not seem to be on the horizon and could in fact be decades away.  In the meantime the ever-growing number of Syrian refugees must be provided with a long-term solution for their own lives.  They are living in a political and everyday limbo at meaning they cannot live a normal civilian life.  The UN must do more to pressure the Jordanian government to halt evictions from the ITS and provide a peaceful pathway back to a refugee camp or the establishment of more camps to fit the conflicting demographics of the Syrian refugees whilst encouraging reconciliation.  Alongside this European countries must do more to provide asylum/resettlement for many thousands more refugees and allow them to continue their lives, with the option to return to Syria when peace regains a foothold if they so wish to.

Jonathan Woodrow Martin, MA graduate from the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at The University of Manchester, UK.  You can find his blog on British foreign policy and general foreign affairs/humanitarian issues here, The View From The Little Man. He can be contacted at jonathan4.martin@live.uwe.ac.uk 

 

 

Jonathan Woodrow Martin is a graduate of HCRI institute at The University of Manchester and can be reached at jwoodrowm@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Obama’s Legacy
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Christopher Brauchli
Parallel Lives: Trump and Temer
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
December 01, 2016
Kenneth Surin
Life and Politics in Appalachia
David Swanson
Why Flag Burning Matters
Ray McGovern
Petraeus Redux?
John Wight
The Fierce Debate Over Castro’s Legacy
Jan Oberg
Orwell in Oslo: Nobel Institute Honors Kissinger (Again) and Brzezinski
RP Burnham
Egoism and Empathy in the Era of Neocons and Neoliberals
Blake Gentry
Fighting for Indigenous Rights: From the UN to Yaqui Territory and Standing Rock
Peter Lee
Chinese Catastrophism Collides with Trump Catastrophism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail