JHR Middle East and the Syrian refugee crisis

Written by Naregh Galoustian, Program Manager of JHR’s Project in the Middle East


On February 7th, international donors including the Canadian government met in London to make a collective pledge of USD 10 billion to improve the livelihood of Syrian refugees across the region.


Jordan only, where JHR has worked since 2013, has absorbed over 1.4 million refugees since the Syrian civil war started in 2011 with a population of over 6 million.


Many refugees fleeing war only look forward to returning to their country, which is very hard to do given the current situation. Regardless, the number of Syrians leaving Jordan to return to Syria doubled in August 2015.


Why? It has proved hard for Jordan – a country that struggles to ensure basic services and opportunities to its own nationals with a skyrocketing youth unemployment at over 34% – to integrate refugees and migrants into its own formal socio-economic texture.


Many Syrians have limited access to basic services, such as education (many schools are already full), and legal employment – it is almost impossible to receive work permits unless one pays exorbitant fees.


Many find informal low paying jobs to survive, triggering ‘wars amongst the poor’ in a country with scarce opportunities and prospects for the future combined with various legal and practical obstacles that makes their daily lives unbearable.


Several other consider seeking asylum illegally in Europe, and undertake the so-called death trips by sea – without knowing the dangers ahead.


This is due to a general lack of awareness about rights and services, both formal and informal, that may be available to refugees to help build their resilience in the hosting or transit countries in the region, including seeking asylum legally.


Through JHR’s training and mentorship, Rania Sarayreh, journalist at the leading daily “Al Ghad”, started to collect large sets of data about this massive phenomenon of illegal migration from Jordan, debunking widespread misperceptions, providing helpful information about services available to refugees and migrants, and making it even more accessible through compelling infographics.


As a result of this story, thousands of copies of Rania’s report were circulated across refugee camps by legal aid and relief organizations, as well across local townships upon request from national authorities. This was done to address a very clear need: raising awareness among hosting and migrant communities about the dangers that illegal migration might entail.


This is just one story that pushed local civil society and institutions to take action, and address a dire problem that affects millions of refugees across the region, and elsewhere.


Given the urgency of this massive humanitarian crisis, JHR’s innovative work in Jordan and the region in raising awareness about human rights through the media is all the more needed.

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