Syrian Refugee Crisis: “Perhaps the problem in Syria is more temporary than ours. I hope so.’


by Adel Sarkozi, CARE International Rapid Response Team

The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has left more than 10.5 million people throughout the region in need of humanitarian assistance. As of May 2013, more than 1.5 million Syrians had crossed into neighboring countries, including Jordan (465,000), Lebanon (477,000) and Egypt (69,000) where CARE is on the ground working to help meet the refugee's most urgent needs. Find out more about our work with Syrian refugees >

Abud, 28, crossed the border from Syria to Jordan two weeks ago. He had to wait a week before being able to do so.

"There were about 500 people stranded at the border with some waiting for over 20 days ... I lived and slept in the street for a week while waiting to cross as accommodation was too expensive," he says.

This was the second time he”s come to Jordan. The first time, months back, he came with his family and there were no issues with the border crossing. He left his wife and three young children in Amman and went back to Syria because his in-laws have been sick, and his wife was worried about them.

Now Abud is with his wife and children again but with the larger family still separated, they continue worrying.

"It”s like being neither here nor there. We want to go back home. We can”t live like this" he says. He wants the world to help.

Maysaa and Khalil do too. But they are not Syrian refugees. They are Iraqis who have been living a life of limbo in Jordan for more than a decade. At the peak of the civil conflict in Iraq in 2006-2007, nearly 5 million people were driven from their homes. Today, nearly 1 million Iraqis are still living as refugees in neighboring countries, according to government estimates, with more than 126,000 of them registered with UNHCR. Up to 300 Iraqis still flee to Jordan every month.

The birthplaces of Khalil”s children – the first born in Iraq, the second in Kuwait and the two younger ones in Jordan – clearly mark the family”s disrupted past and in many ways its uncertain future. Although Khalil and his family received news of resettlement to the United States in 2010, they are still waiting for the final confirmation.

The waiting is becoming harder as "our problems progress," says Khalid. He means finding it harder and harder to pay rent and survive from one day to another. Most Iraqis have no residency or work permits, and live a life of poverty, insecurity and frustration.

A recent assessment by CARE Jordan found that most Iraqis rely on "subsistence-level" assistance – their expenses are exceeding their income by $236 a month. More than 40 percent of the interviewed families reported skipping one meal a day and being regularly hungry.

Maysaa, another Iraqi who has been living with her four children in Jordan since 2005, says this past year has been like a year with 10 years crammed in it. "I grew so old during this time with all the worries and the stress" she says. She hasn”t paid her rent for four months and her family is at risk of being evicted.

Both Khalil and Maysaa share their woes in CARE”s East Amman Iraqi Refugee Center, the only agency in Jordan that”s providing emergency cash assistance to Iraqi families facing increasing hardships. For 10 years, CARE has helped Iraqis with a range of emergency and long-term programs, including livelihood opportunities, psychological support and financial assistance.

"But assistance is never going to solve our problems. It helps in emergency situations but we fear for our future. The Syrian refugees face the same tragedy like us now. Perhaps the problem in Syria is more temporary than ours. I hope so. I hope they can go back home soon. But us…," says Khalid, shaking his head.

In a poor, overcrowded neighborhood in Beirut, elderly Sana raises her shoulders. "What about us?" she asks. "We have been refugees all our lives." She is Palestinian.

Note: As the Syrian crisis continues to unfold and grow, a search for long-term solution for Iraqi refugees in Jordan is currently on hold. Despite the decrease in funding to assist Iraqi refugees and scaling up of its response to assist Syrian refugees, CARE Jordan continues to ensure that the Iraqi refugees do not become invisible and their case is not forgotten.