Jordan says more than 150,000 Syrian refugees have returned home

The kingdom says it is home to 1.3 million Syrians, and fears many are afraid to go back

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2018 file photo, Syrian refugees line up to register their names at an employment office, at the Azraq Refugee Camp, 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Amman, Jordan. Nearly a year after Jordan opened its main border crossing for Syrian refugees to go home, few are taking up the offer. Afraid to return home, unable to earn a decent living in Jordan and unwanted by the West, refugees are trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt while straining the resources of a country that is already struggling to meet the needs of its own population. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)

More than 150,000 Syrians have returned home from Jordan since the reopening of a vital border last October, the country's interior ministry announced on Wednesday.

Amman says it has taken in more than 1.3 million Syrians since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, while struggling with its own economic challenges.

Of those refugees, 650,000 are registered with the United Nations' refugee agency.

"Out of the 153,000 who returned via the Jaber post, around 33,000 had refugee status with the UN," the ministry said.

It said it enabled the necessary procedures for their departure.

The Jaber border crossing, also known as Nassib on the Syrian side, is the main passage between the two countries and previously served as a hub for regional trade.

It was closed for three years after an increase in violence between supporters of the Syrian opposition and government. Jordan reopened the border on October 15, 2018.

A recent survey conducted by UNHCR showed that 75 per cent of Syrian refuges in host countries have expressed their willingness to return home. But officials in Amman believe that Syrians are unwilling to return in the near future.

Some are afraid, but are also unable to earn a decent living in Jordan. Most refugees feel trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt.

Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al Razzaz appealed to the international community earlier this year to continue their funding for Syrians in the country.

Mr Al Razzaz gave a warning that unstable conditions inside Syria, large-scale destruction, fear of retribution and military conscription have made many reluctant to return.

“The number of refugees that so far returned voluntarily is low and most have no intention of going back any time soon,” Mr Al Razzaz told a meeting to launch a UN-funded government plan that earmarks $2.4 billion (Dh8.81bn) in funding needs for 2019.

He also spoke against donor fatigue in a protracted crisis where the needs of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians were unchanged.

Jordan's economy has been under severe pressure while trying to maintain funding for education, health and crucial services for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and local communities.

About 5.6 million Syrian refugees remain in neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.