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UN humanitarian chief says world must share Jordan’s refugee burden

O’Brien checks on living conditions of refugees stranded on Jordanian-Syrian border

By Omar Obeidat - Sep 03,2016 - Last updated at Sep 04,2016

UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien speaks at a press conference in Amman on Friday (Anadolu Agency photo)

AMMAN — A top UN official on Friday urged the international donor community to share the Syrian refugee burden with Jordan. 

At a press conference in Amman, Stephen O’Brien, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said the international community must ensure “robust burden sharing measures” to support Jordan, to address the impact of the crisis and to preserve development opportunities.

O’Brien held the press conference following his field visit to the northeastern border, where, he said, he was able to see the living conditions of Syrians stranded on the berm in the no-man’s land between the Syrian and Jordanian border. 

“As you heard I made a visit to the berm this morning where I saw the absolute reality of the harsh day-to-day living conditions of Syrians stranded there,” he said, adding that there is no access to basic resources such as food and water, while nearly 75 per cent of the people there are women and children. 

“They desperately need assistance and humanitarian support,” O’Brien told reporters. 

During his stay in Jordan, the UN official said he met with King’s Military Adviser and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff Gen. Mashal Al Zaben and Planning and International Cooperation Minister Imad Fakhoury, and discussions focused principally on the Kingdom’s national security concerns and finding solutions to the Syrians stranded at the northeastern border.

Jordan sealed the border after a terrorist attack in late June targeted a military post serving refugees, killing seven troops and injuring 13 others.

Prior to the closure of the northern border, Jordan was receiving dozens of refugees daily.

However, since the attack, no Syrian refugee has entered the Kingdom, with the exception of those admitted for medical treatment.  

According to the UN, more than 85,000 Syrian refugees are stranded at Rakban settlement in the no-man’s land between Jordan and Syria.

Jordanian officials have put the number at more than 100,000, but there are reports of Syrians leaving the makeshift camp back to their homes.

During his meetings with officials, O’Brien said talks reviewed progress made in the education services offered to Syrian refugees.

“I was also able to better understand the extraordinary efforts of the Jordanian authorities in responding to the needs of refugees,” he added. 

In regards to the people at the berm, O’Brien said the Jordanian authorities have facilitated and supported the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and that he was confident that Jordan will maintain its “honourable traditions” in offering assistance to the most vulnerable.

“As the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, I underscore here and now the commitment of the international community and the United Nations to [supporting] the government of Jordan in responding to Syrian refugee crisis.” 


O’Brien said he met with key ambassadors of donor countries and that he briefed them on the current humanitarian developments in order to increase their support for Jordan, adding that donors were committed to boosting humanitarian assistance to Syrians. 

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