Jordan + 5 more

Jordan: UNHCR Operational Update, February 2017

Situation Report
Originally published



655,732 Syrians registered with UNHCR in Jordan, half children growing up in exile

61,405 Iraqis registered with UNHCR in Jordan, half originating from the Baghdad Governorate

38,000 Work permits issued over the past year to Syrians in a livelihoods initiative supported

93 Percentage of Syrians living outside of camps and below the poverty line in Jordan

78 Percentage of Syrians registered with UNHCR in refugee camps who are women and children

40 Percentage of the registered refugee population receiving protection against the cold this winter from UNHCR


US $ 277 million requested for the Jordan Operation in 2017


  • UNHCR’s Helpline experienced a 19% increase in calls from refugees following the suspension of the United States resettlement programme on 27 January. Some were from families in the process of being resettled to the United States, including those who had sold their belongings or had withdrawn their children from school ahead of their imminent transfer. The Jordan operation was the largest resettlement operation in the world in 2016.

  • UNHCR conducted a series of nationwide consultations with refugees in January to discuss challenges and progress in the areas of education and livelihoods, two major commitments outlined in the Jordan Compact. Since the launch of the Compact a year ago at the London Syria Conference, over 38,000 Syrians have been issued with work permits and 15 per cent more Syrian children are attending school.

  • UNHCR and several other UN agencies completed a first round of humanitarian aid distributions in mid-January reaching over 46,000 vulnerable Syrians on the north-east border with food, water and items including blankets and plastic sheeting. The delivery of assistance to the population has been intermittent since a deadly attack in the area in June 2016.


Operational Context

The Government of Jordan (GoJ) and the international community approved the latest chapter of the Jordan Response Plan (JRP) for the Syria crisis on 12 January. The “JRP for the Syria Crisis 2017 – 2019” reinforces commitments made through the Jordan Compact presenting the refugee challenge as an opportunity rather than an encumbrance. Two priorities set out in the Compact are better and increased access to education and livelihoods for refugees, each sectors where UNHCR has noted progress over the past year.

The Ministry of Education estimates the enrolment of 167,000 Syrian children in formal education in the 2016/2017 school year, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year. One hundred additional schools also opened their doors and there are now 198 double-shift schools operating. The new JRP pledges to complement these achievements by constructing and maintaining more schools, as well as and training and investing in more teachers.

The number of Syrians accessing formal employment (all in sectors precluding competition with Jordanian workers) increased over the year with 38,000 Syrians granted work permits. One important factor behind the rise is the GoJ periodically extending grace periods for Syrians wishing to access free work permits. Other positive news for Jordan includes concessional World Bank funding and the European Union relaxing its rules of origin regulations to allow Jordanian products access to its markets.

To build on these achievements, and to help confront those factors preventing the fuller realization of the Compact, UNHCR has initiated a series of nationwide consultations to hear from refugees on the difficulties they encounter in their daily lives, as well as to hear their proposed solutions. The first round was held in mid-January at locations in Amman, Aqaba and Irbid, bringing together refugees and their representatives from each of the 12 governorates.

With an estimated 64,000 Syrian refugee children of school age out of school, refugees stated that the main obstacles to school attendance were economic hardship, the distances to school, and limited transport options. For children in rural areas, accessing school was reported to be especially difficult, particularly for families engaged in transient agricultural work. The same applies to refugees without the necessary documentation, such as refugees without “bail-outs” from camps, or a fixed address.
Refugees also repeated their worry that engaging in regularized work may result in the reduction or cessation of assistance from humanitarian agencies, despite UNHCR assurances to the contrary through various information channels. Others were reluctant to access work permits because, they believe, daily or seasonal informal work allows more flexibility in generating income and more scope for salary negotiation. One additional deterrence, similar to access to education, centres on documentation - a prominent UNHCR protection concern.

UNHCR is planning more refugee consultations in February, this time with Iraqis and other smaller refugee communities, to assist in the formulation of responses to overcoming barriers to opportunity for refugees. What already underpins each of the sessions are two fundamental asks: for the empowerment to reward the generosity of their hosts and for assistance in accessing skills that will one day help in the reconstruction of their countries - both critical aims of the Compact.