Jordan + 2 more

Palestinian families fleeing Syria struggle to survive

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18 June 2013 Syria - UNRWA marks this year’s World Refugee Day by bringing attention to the stories of refugees in its five fields of operation. The following story sheds light on the vulnerability of Palestine refugees displaced by the ongoing violence in Syria.

“I’m really glad they are safe”

The children play in a dusty yard. It is a hot day; the sun beats down as giggles and eruptions of laughter fill the air.

Unfortunately, the laughter is short-lived. The youngest child is crying, having just lost possession of the family’s only toy – their mother’s phone.

“Can you please share with him? Please,” their mother, Rajah, asks, watching her children anxiously.

“My kids are not happy here,” she explains. “But I’m really glad they are safe.” A widow, Rajah and her three children – aged 9, 11 and 14 – fled to Jordan nine months ago, after two bombs fell on their home in Syria and razed it to the ground. Much of the burden of the ongoing conflict in Syria has borne by women and children, and thousands have fled across the border, terrified and desperate for refuge.

Women and children are the most vulnerable

Social isolation, however, presents another obstacle for refugees. Initially, Rajah and her children tried to stay with her in-laws in Irbid. The family thought of them as a burden, and soon they were no longer welcome. “They couldn’t handle it, so I decided to leave,” Rajah says, noting that even when one of her sons was hit by a car, none of her late husband’s relatives came to visit or offer to help.

Soon after she left Syria, Rajah was followed by her two brothers, her sister-in-law and three of her nieces and nephews. Ten altogether, they now share a two-room house where space has become a luxury.

Rajah appreciates the safety of her new home, but the economic and social challenges brought about by displacement are difficult to overcome. With little financial support, she is barely able to afford her monthly rent of US $225.

Rajah’s situation is further complicated because she lacks identification documents. As a result, she is unable to receive assistance from the UNHCR or other NGOs.

“My late husband was a Palestine refugee who held Jordanian citizenship, and so do my children, but I am Syrian,” Rajah says, holding up her late husband’s papers and turning back to the yard where her children are playing.

UNRWA responds

As of 5 June 2013, UNRWA has recorded 1,820 families of Palestinian refugees from Syria as being of concern to the Agency. Currently, 197 Palestinians reside in Cyber City Refugee Camp, the government-appointed facility in the Irbid governorate of Jordan.

UNRWA continues to appeal to the Government of Jordan to retract its policy of refoulement – refusing Palestine refugees fleeing Syria admission into Jordan or forcing those already in Jordan to return to Syria. UNRWA has appealed to Jordan to provide Palestinian refugees with the same humanitarian support given to all others fleeing the conflict.