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GIGA Focus Nahost

Syrian Refugees in Jordan: Between Protection and Marginalisation

Number: 3 | 08/2016 | ISSN: 1862-3611

Syrians currently comprise the largest group of refugees worldwide, with the number of people who have fled the country totalling nearly five million. Although hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees landed in Europe in 2015, the vast majority have remained in the immediate vicinity of their home country in the Middle East. In the main receiving countries, they are in urgent need of conflict-sensitive assistance.

  • Jordan has taken in more Syrian refugees, in relation to the number of its inhabitants, than has Turkey, but far fewer than Lebanon. From a legal point of view, these refugees in Jordan live in an uncertain limbo between temporary protection and structural marginalisation.

  • Within Jordan, the majority of Syrians live in the capital of Amman and in the border towns and communities of the north, while a significantly smaller portion lives in the official refugee camps. In addition, some tens of thousands of refugees are subsisting in makeshift refugee camps without any aid or infrastructure. They are located in the no man’s land between the Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi borders.

  • In northern Jordanian cities such as Mafraq, property owners and local entrepreneurs are profiting from the presence of refugees and the influx of international aid money. However, the Syrians and many Jordanians are suffering from the subsequent price increases and the tight labour and housing markets.

  • This situation harbours potential for conflict, since the competitive climate on the ground could deepen prejudices between Jordanians and Syrians. However, apart from a few exceptions, the existing tensions have not escalated into violence so far.

Policy Implications

The ongoing war in Syria is making the return of the refugees in the foreseeable future unlikely. Since European countries, including Germany, are not willing to grant protection to a larger number of Syrian refugees, the host countries in the region are in dire need of a substantial increase in international aid. In this context, the heterogeneous reality of Syrians living in Jordan – be it in cities, villages, or camps – should be given more consideration.


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The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

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