Charity warns of crisis in Jordan over Iraqi refugees

By staff writers
January 26, 2007

Concerns are growing at the level of hardship being experienced across Jordan as a result of the growing number of Iraqi refugees, in what Christian charity World Emergency Relief (WER) is calling a ‘hidden crisis’.

It is estimated by UNHCR that there are now 700,000 Iraqi refugees living in Jordan, causing the cost of living to spiral beyond the means of much of the population.

WER’s director of operations Alex Haxton has been in Jordan this week evaluating the current situation and the ongoing needs of the region.

“This is the biggest crisis to be faced by Jordan for many decades,” says Alex Haxton, speaking from the country’s capital Amman. “Property prices have increased three-fold in two years and the price of kerosene has doubled in the last year. Many of the families we’ve spoken to say they can no longer afford to heat their homes. Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians, not to mention Iraqi refugees, are finding their income is no longer adequate to meet basic needs so the situation is only going to get worse.

“Prices are soaring and hardship is growing but there is little or no money being allocated by the international community, even though the situation is direct fallout from the conflict in Iraq. This crisis affects Jordan as a whole, not just the refugee population, and needs our attention now before it escalates.”

The charity also reports that men under the age of 40 are being turned back at the border in an attempt to stop terrorists entering Jordan, leaving women and children stranded in a foreign country with no means or support.

It is estimated that around two million Iraqis have fled their country and are living in increasingly difficult conditions in neighbouring countries like Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. The charity says this represents the largest long term displacement of people since the uprooting of Palestinians during the creation of Israel in 1948.

This week Jordan has imposed severe restrictions on the number of refugees entering the country from Iraq. With no official registration process those fleeing the conflict don’t have refugee status. As a result, most of the 700,000 Iraqis already there are living in acute poverty in poor accommodation, with many children prevented from attending school.

Two 40ft containers of relief supplies shipped by WER are due to arrive in Jordan in the next few days. These will be distributed by WER’s local Christian partner IOMERD, which is based in Amman, to the Iraqi refugee population and any Jordanians suffering similar levels of hardship.

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