Syrian refugee aid hit by pandemic and Ukraine war, Jordan says

Minister tells Davos that Jordan's response plan is only 30 per cent funded

Jordan is home to more than 750,000 refugees, according to a UN agency. Getty Images
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Donor funding to support Syrian refugees in Jordan is diminishing and is not nearly enough to cover their needs, a Jordanian minister said on Thursday.

Zeina Toukan, Jordan's Minister for Planning and International Co-operation, said the attention of donors had been "diverted elsewhere" during the pandemic and by the war in Ukraine.

She told an event at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the lack of private funding was straining Jordan's public finances.

Jordan hosts about 760,000 refugees, mainly from Syria, according to the UN's refugee agency. Some are from other countries such as Iraq, Yemen, Sudan or Somalia.

Some hoped the integration of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, generally seen as a success, would be a template to improve the lives of refugees elsewhere. But this has not been the case in Jordan, Ms Toukan said.

"Attention [was] diverted elsewhere when it comes to Syrian refugees. We have seen that especially with diminishing donor support," she said.

"Our response plan is 30 per cent funded, of the actual required needs. This has taken a lot of toll on the economy, on the government budget, to be able to maintain quality services not only to refugees but also to Jordanians.

"We remain open but it cannot be open without certain restrictions, because of high unemployment, and we're struggling to find jobs for Jordanian youth. You need different actors coming together, including the private sector."

The Zaatari camp in Jordan is home to about 80,000 Syrian refugees. AFP

Ms Toukan was speaking at a panel on helping refugees into employment, where countries were urged to treat everyone fleeing war the same, regardless of their background.

Labour shortages since the pandemic have prompted some European countries to look at liberalising their immigration laws.

Still, Hassan El Houry, the chairman of Menzies Aviation, said it was not easy for the air industry ― one of the sectors most visibly suffering from a lack of staff ― to recruit refugees.

"The challenge that we have is that airports are a very sensitive part of the infrastructure. Anybody who wants to work at an airport needs to have a very thorough background check," he said.

"For refugees, that's a lot harder because you don't have five years of police records and tax records, and so on and so forth."

Updated: January 19, 2023, 3:34 PM