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‘Only 2% of Syrians heading to Europe come from Jordan’

By Dana Al Emam - Mar 23,2016 - Last updated at Mar 23,2016

AMMAN — Only 2 per cent of Syrians who have reached Europe or lost their lives in the sea trip to the continent come from Jordan, an expert said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, nearly one-third of Syrians currently residing in Jordan plan to stay in the Kingdom for good, according to a recent study on the economic and social integration of refugees.

Conducted by the University of Jordan's Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS) in cooperation with the Euro-Mediterranean Study Commission as part of a regional evaluation of the impact of migrants and refugees on future policies, the study showed that the majority of Syrians in Jordan are under 14 years, a matter that requires adaptive policies for education and job opportunities.

The major implications on the local market were an increase in informal economy, an increase in competition with Jordanians on existing job opportunities, crowding out in the labour market and a deterioration in working conditions, said CSS Director Musa Shteiwi. 

In an interview with The Jordan Times on the sideline of a panel discussion, Shteiwi warned against "deeper" economic problems, including higher unemployment, debt and budget deficit, in light of donors' fatigue and a declining international humanitarian aid.

Concerning the increase of Syrian presence in the informal economy, he called on employers in the private sector to commit to "decent work ethics", as they clearly prefer employing Syrian workers for lower wages and less job security. 

Although Jordan and Lebanon are two of the most affected countries by the Syrian crisis, the international aid provided to them did not match the overall refugee-hosting expenses, according to Shteiwi.

Since the influx of Syrians into Lebanon, the country witnessed higher unemployment rates, more cases of child labour and the demise of small businesses, in addition to an enlarging informal sector. 

Panellists agreed that the Syrian crisis and the influx of Syrians into their countries caused significant socioeconomic changes that include competition on jobs, the growth of informal economies and pressure on services.

Berta Fernandez from the Institute for European Studies at the University of Malta said the Syrian crisis has created a paradigm shift in the entire European Union area, leading policy makers to review several policies and laws, including those concerning migration and transportation.

She noted that the influx of immigrants and asylum seekers to Europe has “exposed” several legal and operational weaknesses on the level of governmental and aid agencies. Furthermore, the crisis showed a lack of solidarity among EU countries, especially concerning the Schengen system.

According to studies she cited, 46 per cent of Syrians have the intentions to migrate to Europe despite the very risky trip through the Mediterranean, which has taken the lives of some 40,000 people since 2000.

Fernandez noted that the lack of jobs adequate to Syrians’ skills is the main drive for migration for over 40 per cent of Syrians, adding that 45 per cent of migrants reach Europe from Syria through Turkish lands, while around 25 per cent of Syrians come from Turkey, 19 per cent from Lebanon and only 2 per cent from Jordan.

Meanwhile, Turkey, which hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees, has over 270,000 Syrians living in 25 camps throughout 10 provinces throughout its borders with Syria, said Gulden Boluk from the Centre for Economic Research on Mediterranean Countries, yet over 85 per cent of refugees live outside camps.

She noted that those living outside camps face challenges concerning the most urgent issues of housing, food, education, health service and employment. On the other hand, this pushed inflation rates up, as well as rental costs.

Nonetheless, around 400,000 Syrians work in the informal sector, low-skill jobs such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, textiles, services and waste picking and sorting, usually under exploitive work conditions.

But under a new decision, refugees will be able to apply for a six-month work permit after they obtain temporary identification cards from providences they reside in.

Boluk said the number of companies owned by Syrians increased by 40 fold between 2010 and 2015, adding that 750 out of some 2,400 foreign capital companies registered in the first half of last year belong to Syrians.

For his side, Dimitris Skleparis from the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, reviewed his country’s stance on the issue of refugees as well as asylum application procedures in Greece, Italy and Spain.

He said that in 2015 Greece witnessed the arrival of some 850,000 individuals, with Syrians forming 60 per cent of them. Around 60 per cent of the arrivals were men, while women and children formed 40 per cent.

 

However, since the beginning of this year until mid-March, Greece received over 143,000 individuals crossing from the sea, half of them Syrians, with men forming 40 per cent while women and children constituting the remaining 60 per cent.

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