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Like Syria and Lebanon, Jordan has been a host country for both Iraqi refugees and Palestinians in the past decades. However, the country has few natural resources, significant unemployment, and depends significantly on foreign aid. These factors have both limited its capacity to absorb refugee populations, and led to increasing public protests and calls for reform. Although not signatory to the Refugee Convention, the Jordanian government remains open to working with international actors inside its borders to address humanitarian concerns.
Current Humanitarian Situation
As of August 2012, roughly 37,000 Syrian refugees had registered in Jordan after fleeing violence in their home country, though the government estimates it is actually hosting 150,000 or more. This large influx is a cause of concern within the government. Syrian refugees were initially taken to transit centers on the northern border, they could be bailed out by Jordanian nationals and then join friends or family members in host communities. However, in July 2012, Jordan opened a large refugee camp for up to 150,000 people in response to the overwhelming number of arrivals and the difficulty of providing services to what had been a widely dispersed population.
Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees will remain outside the camp in urban settings and will need support from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners as the cost of food and shelter continues to rise. Donors have recognized the importance of supporting the host communities as well as the refugees, but funds have been slow to arrive.
Iraqi refugees began arriving in Jordan in large numbers in 2003, and the government estimates that 450,000 may be in the country. The UNHCR, meanwhile, has only registered 32,000. As in Lebanon, the UNHCR provides services so that Iraqi refugees can survive, but Iraqis generally cannot obtain legal status in Jordan, nor can they return to Iraq safely. Their most likely prospect for a long-term solution is resettlement – usually a long and slow process..
Jordan’s Palestinian population is generally thought to include about half of the country’s total population. Many Palestinians hold Jordanian citizenship, and on paper have the same rights as other Jordanian citizens. Nonetheless, there are reports of discrimination –especially in education and employment opportunities – and several hundred thousand Palestinians have been forced to live in camps by poor socioeconomic conditions. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) assists these camp populations.