Flight of Syrians into Jordan intensifying

UNHCR says Jordan now has more registered Syria refugees than Turkey as uprising against Assad shows no sign of ending.

Hundreds of Syrians approach the agency daily to register for its services and protection, pushing the total number of registered Syrian refugees in Jordan to over 22,000, the UNHCR in Amman has said.

Andrew Harper, the UN refugee agency’s country representative, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that 7,800 Syrian refugees had been registered in May 2012, marking the highest number of registrations in a single month since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government began 14 months ago.

Jordan now has more registered Syrian refugees than Turkey, Harper said.

The UNHCR expects this upward trend to continue with the agency’s increased outreach efforts and recent dispatch of a mobile office to the border city of Ramtha.

Harper said that the number of registered refugees is unrepresentative of the total number of Syrians in need, which the government places at 120,000.

According to the UNHCR, around half of the registered refugees come from Homs, which has been pounded by the Syrian government, and just over a fourth originate from Deraa.

Harper maintains that the Jordanian government and people have been exemplary in opening their borders and communities to Syrians.

But he says the international community has to support Jordan “as it demonstrates international burden sharing at its best.”

Mobilising resources

The UNHCR is trying to mobilise resources from the international community and Gulf Arab countries because it feels Syrians will be staying in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for some time.

Harper believes the international community needs to stop talking about doing something, but rather come forward and help.

Local communities have absorbed the bulk of the burden and challenges that hosting Syrians poses for Jordan.

Syrians and Jordanians have connections and family ties and that is why community-based efforts to assist Syrians in Jordan have been extraordinary.

Sheikh Omar al-Zoubi, a Jordanian from the border town of Ramtha, has taken it upon himself to collect donations to fund the treatment of injured Syrian refugees who cross over.

He says people’s contributions have been exemplary. He mentions that he once managed to collect $17,000 in one day to pay a hospital bill for one Syrian patient.

Through Zoubi we met more than 10 injured Syrians in an apartment in Irbid who were recovering after hospital treatment. Some are members of the rebel group Free Syrian Army, who were injured in clashes with the Syrian government’s armed forces.

All suffer from bullet wounds in the legs that have left most unable to walk.

Religious motive

Zoubi, a devout Muslim, says the volunteers and donors he works with do not belong to a certain group or political party, but are rather helping Syrians out of a religious motive.

He said “we collect donations to rent homes for them and treat them and we ask Allah to bring them victory and to get rid of their country’s tyrant”.

Zoubi says Saudi and Qatari individuals have been approaching him to donate money to Syrians in Jordan.

Zoubi criticises some Arab countries that have not helped Syrians yet, and Western countries that “claim to care about peace but care more about their political interests”.

Nobody knows how long the violence in Syria will force its population to flee to neighbouring countries.

But for now, the UNHCR’s plan is to find more resources to enhance the capacity of local community-based organisations and societies, such Omar al-Zoubi’s, so that they can continue to shoulder their responsibilities towards Syrians, a responsibility they wish to take.

Source: Al Jazeera


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