Syrian families struggle to cope outside the protective umbrella of camps in Jordan

News Stories, 18 March 2014

© UNHCR/O.Laban-Mattei
A Syrian mother and her children arrive at the dilapidated basement building where they are staying in the Jordan capital, Amman.

AMMAN, Jordan, March 18 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Tuesday said that hundreds of thousands of Syrians forced into exile in Jordan are facing a fresh humanitarian crisis as they struggle to get by living outside the country's refugee camps.

The warning comes in a study by UNHCR and International Relief and Development (IRD), which highlights the day-to-day survival struggle of 450,000 Syrians as they face rising rents, inadequate housing and educational challenges for their children.

The report was based on 92,000 interviews conducted during home visits in 2012 and 2013, and reflects growing concern that as the Syria crisis enters its fourth year many refugees can no longer cope.

The study shows the dilemma that refugees face to survive in urban areas, despite the generosity and support that Jordan has continued to offer them, including free public health care and education.

"After escaping the horrors of war at home, hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled the violence and deprivation are facing a second crisis in their place of refuge," said Andrew Harper, UNHCR's representative in Jordan. "Syrian refugees in Jordan are hanging on by a thread: struggling to keep a roof over their heads and earn enough money to get by."

Almost four in five Syrian refugees in Jordan live outside the formal camps, but only get a fraction of the international attention given to Za'atri camp in northern Jordan. UNHCR and IRD staff interviewed tens of thousands of households to identify needs and help the hidden majority of refugees who live in towns and cities throughout the country.

The report comes amid indications that as the last of their assets are drying up, many families are turning to "negative coping mechanisms" to make ends meet, sometimes placing themselves at risk of exploitation.

More than 90 per cent of urban refugees in Jordan live in rented accommodation, the report said, and prices for Syrians have risen from 2012-2013 by as much as 25 per cent in some locations. Rent now accounts for almost two thirds of refugee expenditure, and has emerged as a primary concern for their well-being. Half of Syria's refugees feel they live in inadequate dwellings, including badly ventilated apartments that suffer from damp or mold.

The study also warned that 61 per cent of Syrian children covered by this study did not go to school during the 2012-2013 academic year, while five per cent who were at school reported having dropped out. UNHCR continues to directly investigate this issue, but reasons include bullying, challenges in adjusting to the Jordanian curriculum, inability to catch up, working in order to earn money for their families, and, not least, the over-stretched capacity of the Jordanian public education system.

"Syria's children have already lost their past. We cannot now allow a generation to lose its future," said Andrew Harper, UNHCR's representative in Jordan. "Syrian children in Jordan must be given the skills to rebuild, for themselves and the future of their country."

On a positive note, the report suggested Syrian refugees were becoming increasingly self-reliant. Access to legal employment in Jordan is challenging for refugees; however, the proportion of cases reporting receiving income earned from work rose from 28 per cent to 36 per cent between 2012 and 2013. The proportion reporting income from humanitarian assistance and charity decreased from 63 per cent to 49 per cent.

UNHCR and IRD continue to interview 10,000 refugee households every month in an effort to maintain a deep understanding of new or worsening vulnerabilities of refugee families. This will allow for services and activities that are targeted and will address the increasing needs of refugees, as the Syria crisis continues to deepen.

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Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing CrisisPlay video

Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing Crisis

Hundreds of thousands of refugees living in urban areas are struggling to survive. They face rising rents, inadequate accommodation, and educational challenges for their children.

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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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