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Jordan warns of repercussions of diluted support on refugees, host countries

Int’l donors pledge $7b aid for Syria in 2019 at 3rd Brussels conference

By JT - Mar 14,2019 - Last updated at Mar 14,2019

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi delivers a statement at the 3rd Brussels conference to support Syria on Thursday (Photo courtesy of Foreign Ministry)

AMMAN — Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Thursday called on the international community to fully uphold its responsibilities towards Syrian refugees, 1.3 million of which are hosted by Jordan.

In a statement made during the inaugural session of the 3rd Brussels conference under the title “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, organised by the EU and the UN, Safadi said that “investing in refugees and providing proper living standards for them is key to the continuity of the region’s future, security and stability”.

The conference was attended by foreign ministers and representatives from 80 countries, a Foreign Ministry statement said. 

Safadi affirmed the need for focusing international efforts on reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis; one that is accepted by the Syrian people, maintains Syria’s unity and cohesion, restores peace and stability and facilitates the voluntary return of refugees to their country.

“The Syrian crisis is a disaster that has caused suffering, death and destruction that must be ended through a political solution,” the minister stressed.

He pointed out that the refugee crisis still poses, the solution to which is ending the crisis that caused it as well as continuing to offer the necessary provisions to meet their needs and those of their host countries, which, like Jordan, are bearing the burden of asylum. 

“More than seven years ago, Jordan opened its borders to hundreds of thousands of fellow [Syrians] who fled to the Kingdom. The number of refugees [in Jordan] has reached 1.3 million, to whom we have opened our schools, hospitals and job market,” Safadi said. 

“Jordan did the right thing, which corresponds with the values of Jordanians and our heritage of helping those in need and supporting our brothers and sisters,” he added.

The top diplomat affirmed the need for the international community to do the right thing as well, by supporting the Kingdom in shouldering the burden of the refugee crisis, adding that Jordan is currently fulfilling its responsibility towards refugees on behalf of the international community. 

Helping refugees and the countries that host them is a humanitarian and moral responsibility, one which protects security and stability, as providing education and decent living conditions protects refugees from abuse and manipulation from extremists, who thrive on despair, ignorance and deprivation, the minister stressed. 

He added that maintaining stability in Syria and providing vital services and the means for dignified living are key factors for encouraging the voluntary return of refugees, adding that this requires effective international efforts, according to the statement. 

Safadi pointed out that less than 15,000 refugees returned to their country last year, since the reopening of Jordan’s borders with Syria, as they still believe that conditions are not safe enough for their return. 

“The Syrian child’s right to learn and read is a basic human right that must remain immune against political issues and turbulence,” Safadi affirmed. 

He reiterated that the Rukban camp issue is not Jordan’s responsibility, affirming that the Kingdom fulfilled its duty towards dwellers of the camp; and that the delivery of aid from within Syria, which was previously impossible, is now possible.

The minister said that delivering aid to the Rukban camp, located on the Syrian side of the border with Jordan, is a “temporary solution”, and that the issue must be sustainably resolved through the return of the camp dwellers to their hometowns, which have now been liberated from Daesh’s control. 

He referred to a UN study that revealed that 95 per cent of those living in the Rukban camp, want to return to their homes, asserting that restoring proper living conditions and closing the camp must be a key goal. 

Safadi pointed out to negotiations between Jordan, the US and Russia that seek to find an unanimous solution to the Rukban camp crisis.

Furthermore, the minister expressed his appreciation of international efforts in helping Jordan bear the responsibility of the refugee crisis which has strained major sectors that include health, education and the job market, the statement added. 

He warned of the repercussions of cutting and diluting support on refugees and the Kingdom’s ability to sustain the quality of the services it provides.  

Safadi briefed the participants of the conference by pointing to the strain the refugee crisis has put on Jordan, noting that some schools have had to operate for two shifts and that crowding in classrooms has affected the quality of education and services offered by other sectors.

He stressed the importance of Jordanian-UN relations in dealing with the aftermath of the refugee crisis and thanked the European Union for its support to the Kingdom, expressing appreciation for the efforts of the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini for her involvement in refugee issues, evident through the Brussels III conference, according to the statement. 

International donors on Thursday pledged nearly $7 billion in aid for 2019 for civilians caught up in Syria’s bloody civil war but the total fell short of what the UN says is needed, AFP news agency reported.

EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides announced the total at the end of the three-day conference, on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the start of the conflict.

The European Union led the pledges with 2 billion euros, but the conference failed to drum up the $9 billion the United Nations said was needed to help the millions of Syrians forced to flee the country as well as those facing a humanitarian crisis at home.

European powers reiterated that progress on a UN led peace process must come before they will release funds to rebuild Syria — though they have dropped their insistence that President Bashar Assad must go.

Despite the shortfall, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said he was “very pleased with the outcome” but stressed that only a political solution could end the misery endured by Syrians as a result of the war, according to AFP.

Before the conference, the UN estimated that $5.5 billion (4.4 billion euros) was needed to help the approximately 5.6 million Syrians forced to flee their country, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

A further $3.3 billion is needed for populations inside Syria facing a humanitarian situation, described by the Medecins du Monde aid agency as “unsustainable”.

The UN describes the crisis in Syria as “staggering”, with 11.7 million people in need of some form of humanitarian aid, 6.2 million people internally displaced and 83 per cent of Syrians living below the poverty line.

Germany pledged 1.44 billion euros, Washington almost $400 million and Britain some £400 million (464 million euros).

“We hope to reach 11.7 million Syrians inside the country with food assistance and millions more with health and water services. To know that there will be funding for that, at this stage of the year, is very important,” Lowcock said.

The conference raised pledges of a further $2.4 billion for humanitarian, resilience and development activities for the Syria crisis response in 2020 and beyond, the UN aid agency OCHA said.

But past commitments have not been followed up on — the UN says only 65 per cent of the $3.4 billion pledged in 2018 for work inside Syria was received.

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