UNHCR’s target of identifying and screening-in 10,000 Syrians, part of Canada’s plans to welcome 25,000 Syrians from the region through its Humanitarian Transfer Programme, was surpassed on 20 December with 11,005 individual files transferred to the Canadian authorities. UNHCR staff volunteered over five weekends and after hours to reach the target before the end of 2015.
The successful launch of the EyeCloud© system on 17 January marks a massive breakthrough in the delivery of cash assistance to Jordan’s most vulnerable refugees. The system, launched jointly with Cairo-Amman Bank (CAB) and IrisGuard, will allow cash machines to “talk” directly to UNHCR’s biometric registration database, allowing UNHCR to instantly and securely increase the number of beneficiaries without the bank needing to enroll and re-verify refugees.
A six-week sit-in protest outside UNHCR offices in Amman ended in the deportation of approximately 585 Sudanese refugees from Jordan on 16 December, despite several appeals from UNHCR to the Government of Jordan.
The new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited Jordan on 18 and 19 January in one of his first field missions after taking office. The High Commissioner’s visit included trips to the Zaatari refugee camp, the Anmar Hmoud Registration Centre at UNHCR’s Khalda office and refugee homes in Amman, as well as meetings with His Majesty King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.
UPDATE ON ACHIEVEMENTS
The New Year represents a critical juncture for the 636,000 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in Jordan, five years into the war and with no end to the crisis in sight. With limited access to formal employment and savings and remittances long depleted, some 90 per cent of Syrian refugees are now living in poverty with 80 per cent of these resorting to crisis or emergency coping strategies. For some in 2015 this included the dangerous strategy of moving back to Syria or the perilous journey towards Europe. Children are now especially vulnerable with many dropping out of school to support their families by working in exploitative and dangerous areas of the job market. The most recent figures indicate that 115,000 Syrian school-age children are currently not accessing any form of education, thereby threatening what many fear the most: a “lost generation”.
The mounting pressures on refugees are compounded by chronic shortages in key infrastructure precipitated by the large influx of refugees into Jordan in recent years. These pressures are leading to cuts in key services for refugees, including the withdrawal of free access to health care for Syrians. Four-fifths of Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR are concentrated in urban areas, mostly in the northern governorates of Amman, Irbid and Mafraq where the competition for resources between refugee and host community is strongest. Reduced international funding levels has also severely impacted refugees over the last year with the reduction of life-essential assistance, including World Food Programme food vouchers.
To respond to these multiplying challenges, UNHCR is continuing to seek out the most effective solutions to protecting those under its mandate. The operation’s cash assistance programme works to improve the ability of refugee households to meet their basic needs and reduce the number living in poverty, all whilst providing a boost for the host economy. The EyeCloud© launch in January represented the latest breakthrough for the programme in what promises to be a groundbreaking year in cash support. The search for durable solutions is also being transformed with a revised refugee status determination and resettlement processing strategy to prioritize the most vulnerable. Last year was the busiest yet for the operation’s durable solutions team and 2016 is set to continue the trend with demand from resettlement countries to refer and submit Syrian refugees in greater numbers as part of international burden-sharing efforts.
The year ahead will be characterized in other ways by the continued search for longer-term solutions. Host communities will need to sense that a degree of compensation for bearing the costs of large refugee communities is forthcoming from the international community. Refugees will need to be provided with ways in which to sustain themselves and become less reliant on aid and their host communities. UNHCR will continue to work with the Government of Jordan to provide refugees with self-reliance opportunities, whilst also supporting initiatives to lessen the toll of the crisis on Jordanians. The London Syria Donors Conference in February and the High-level meeting on global responsibility sharing through pathways for admission of Syrian refugees in Geneva in March will provide two early opportunities in 2016 to articulate meaningful solutions to the most serious displacement crisis for a generation.