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Gov’t, UNHCR sign amendments to cooperation memo

By Khetam Malkawi - Mar 31,2014 - Last updated at Mar 31,2014

AMMAN — The UNHCR will now have 90 days to examine applications submitted by refugees who enter Jordan under amendments introduced to a memorandum of understanding and signed on Monday.

The Interior Ministry and the UNHCR signed the amendments to the memo, which was first signed in 1998 and gave the UN agency between 21 and 30 days to examine applications.

Interior Minister Hussain Majali and UNHCR Representative to Jordan Andrew Harper signed the memo, which also stipulates extending the validity of a refugee identification card to one year instead of six months.

Over the years the government and the UNHCR have managed to deal professionally with the influx of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, Majali said. However, the current developments related to the high influx of Syrian refugees called for amending these articles of the agreement.

According to official figures, there are 1.3 million Syrians in the Kingdom, 618,000 of whom are registered refugees with the UNHCR.

Majali noted that the cost of providing health services alone to Syrian refugees exceeded JD23 million.

“Today marks another example of Jordan’s commitment to protect Syrian refugees,” Harper said.

This is a time when Jordan has been under unbearable strain due to hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, he added. “It is up to the international community to work harder to mitigate the impact of the crisis on Jordan.”

Saleh Kilani, refugee affairs coordinator at the Interior Ministry, explained that this “partnership” memo came into effect in 1998 to regulate the relations between the government and the UNHCR as Jordan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

In an interview with The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the signing ceremony, he noted that the agreement has 13 articles to regulate this relationship, and only two articles were amended to give the UNHCR more time to deal with the large number of refugees.

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