Unrest in Syria is fuelling smuggling of drugs into Jordan, minister says

Ayman Safadi says his country has become a target for the narcotics trade

Ayman Safadi, Jordan's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, during the 17th IISS Manama Dialogue in the Bahraini capital Manama November 20, 2021.  AFP
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Jordan is facing not only a refugee crisis but also drug trafficking challenges on a daily basis, the country's Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Al Safadi has said.

Captagon, a synthetic stimulant that has become synonymous with Syria’s conflict, is one of the most widely consumed drugs in the region.

Jordan has been foiling smuggling attempts and seizing large amounts of narcotics from Syria and the region for months.

“We have a 360-kilometre border with Syria. In recent years the biggest threat was terrorism and now it is drug trafficking,” Mr Al Safadi, who is also Jordan's foreign minister, said on Saturday during the annual Institute of Strategic Studies summit in Bahrain.

“Hardly a day passes when we don't intercept drugs coming into Jordan, such as Captagon,” he said.

New production techniques in Syria and an increase in regional demand, pushed by Covid-19 lockdowns, resulted in the rise of smuggling this year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in its World Drugs Report for 2021.

“In the past Jordan was a transitional market but now Jordan has become a target,” Mr Al Safadi told the audience.

For years the Middle East has been battling a Captagon crisis, with security forces across the region carrying out operations to combat drug trafficking.

Refugee crisis

On the refugee crisis, Mr Al Safadi said his government is hosting millions of Syrians.

He emphasised the need for regional states to come up with a political solution that includes the safe return of millions of refugees stranded in the region and the West.

"There was no strategy to solve the Syria crisis over the past few years, we used to deal with the status quo, but we cannot afford the status quo ... we are trying to see if we can get movement to reach a solution," Mr Al Safadi said.

Jordan has been at the "receiving end of every crisis in the region", he said.

"We will do whatever we can to serve the interests of our country," he said, adding that Jordan has the second largest refugee population in the world.

Jordan has the second largest population of refugees globally after Lebanon by percentage of the population, with refugee numbers representing 10 per cent of the country's inhabitants, the Norwegian Refugee Council, a non-governmental organisation, has said.

Mr Al Safadi said that 15 per cent of the roughly 660,000 Syrian refugees who are in Jordan are under the age of 15.

"Jordan is the only country they ever got to know. We are doing everything we can to provide them with hope," he said.

The minister said he believed donor fatigue was another challenge facing his country and the international community.

IISS Manama Dialogue - in pictures

Updated: November 21, 2021, 4:08 AM