Syrian refugees struggle in urban Jordan

Amid inadequate housing and high debts, more than half a million refugees are increasingly vulnerable, report finds.

The report surveyed more than 2,200 families in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Mafraq [Areej Abuqudairi/Al Jazeera]

Amman, Jordan – Three years after fleeing their war-torn country, more than half a million Syrian refugees living in Jordan’s urban centres have become more vulnerable and destitute, a new study has revealed.

A household assessment released by CARE International on Thursday found that urban Syrian refugees are struggling to cope with inadequate housing and high debts amid increasing prices in Jordan.   

Women have reported being asked by their landlords for sexual favours to exempt them from rent.

by Salam Kanaan, CARE Jordan's country director

More than 90 percent of the refugees are indebted to relatives, landlords, shopkeepers and neighbours, according to the report, which surveyed more than 2,200 families living Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Mafraq.

“Refugees, especially those who have been displaced for years, have used all of their assets and savings,” Salam Kanaan, CARE Jordan’s country director, said during a news conference in Amman on Thursday.

The average monthly expenditure for a Syrian family in Jordan is 297 JOD ($418), including 193 JOD ($272) for rent. Rental prices have increased by almost a third in the past year across the country, the study found.

Housing conditions for Syrian refugees remain “unsuitable”, the CARE report stated. On average, 6.2 Syrian refugees share a single home.

“The insecurity to provide for their families causes increasing levels of stress and sets women at risk of sexual exploitation,” Kanaan told Al Jazeera. “Women have reported being asked by their landlords for sexual favours to exempt them from rent.” The study found that some vulnerable families have turned to informal work, child labour and marriages that provide “financial gains”.

Poor Jordanian families in urban settings are equally vulnerable, said Kanaan, who called for further support from the international community.

The Jordanian government said that a sudden increase of the Syrian refugee population has placed pressure on the country’s limited resources.

“It created enormous financial and security burdens, which are particularly difficult for Jordan because it suffers a budget deficit, high unemployment rates, and poverty,” Mohammad Momani, minister for media affairs and government spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

The education and health sectors have been particularly affected due to the massive influx of Syrians over the past three years, Momani said. “Jordan is proud of the role it played in helping Syrians, but we continue to call on the international community to support neighbouring countries hosting Syrians,” he added.

Jordan is home to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees. About 80,000 live in UN-run refugee camps, while the majority live in poor neighbourhoods in urban areas.

Source: Al Jazeera