Jordan Foreign Minister says Syrian refugees must eventually return home

Ayman Al Safadi says safety for them in Syria has not yet been guaranteed

Joudi, A Syrian refugee girl and her paintings at Makani, an internationally funded learning centre in a low-income district of Amman. Khaled Yacoub Oweis / The National
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Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi said on Tuesday that Syrian refugees in Jordan should return to their homeland but implied that it is not safe to do so.

There are 670,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan. The kingdom has made their return an objective of a rapprochement effort with President Bashar Al Assad, along with curbing booming narcotics smuggling from areas under Mr Al Assad's control.

"Immediate and practical steps must be taken to provide the necessary circumstances for the voluntary return of the Syrian refugees," a Foreign Ministry statement quoted Mr Al Safadi as telling Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in Amman.

He said reaching "consensus" was needed with Damascus to guarantee "the security and safety" of refugees who chose to return. At the same time, world powers should "build the necessary environment" for their "dignified living" in Syria.

"The future of the Syrian refugees is in their country and not in Jordan," he said.

Syrian refugees started arriving in Jordan as Syrian security forces used violence to suppress on the peaceful 2011 pro-democracy revolt. By the end of the year Syria was in civil war. In 2014, Jordan closed its borders to the refugees.

Upon prodding from Russia, Mr Al Assad's most powerful supporter, Jordan improved ties with Damascus, as it accused the Syrian military and pro-Iranian militias of sponsoring the narcotics trade.

Jordanian officials also increasingly started to refer to the refugees as a burden, especially as the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year put pressure on humanitarian operations in Jordan. The invasion contributed to a decrease of UN cash subsidies for the most needy refugees in the kingdom, especially those from Syria.

Updated: August 22, 2023, 6:03 PM