This is a portion of an article I’ve written for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Recent estimates place the total number of Syrian refugees in Jordan at over 500,000. Zaatari refugee camp has become the fourth largest city in Jordan by population—it may not be much of a home, but each refugee costs the Jordanian government 2,500 dinars ($3,750) to host per year. The cost of Syrian refugees is putting a tremendous strain on the economy and is affecting the patronage systems that have ensured tribal loyalty to Jordan’s monarchy in the past. In addition to increasing resentment within the tribal population, the presence of Syrian refugees has also provided a boost in support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s best-organized opposition, thereby adding to the tension the Hashemite Kingdom faces.
Jordan’s ability to absorb Syrian refugees has become a growing issue. Its fiscal position has deteriorated since the beginning of the Arab Spring; hosting 500,000 refugees has already cost Jordan over $800 million since the Syrian war began, and unrest across the Arab world, particularly in neighboring Syria, has cost Jordan’s economy as much as $4 billion. Furthermore, foreign assistance, on which Jordan was able to rely while dealing with the influx of Iraqi refugees, is insufficient. Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour recently stated in an interviewthat “the foreign assistance extended to Jordan is not enough in the face of the extraordinary numbers of Syrian refugees who have sought a safe haven in the Kingdom since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011.”
Government and UN officials say the refugee influx has placed a huge burden on already overstretched water and power supplies, as well as housing and education, which has rendered subsidy cuts necessary. The government has raised the prices of fuel and commercial electricity—and bread and water are expected to follow soon. Jordanians, reeling from these price increases, are also angry about the impact of the refugees on unemployment. According to the Ministry of Labor, approximately 160,000 Syrians work illegally in Jordan. They accept lower pay and tougher work conditions to fill positions in bakeries, garages, and cafes. This increases resentment amongst Jordanians, who suffer from an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent. It also feeds the attitude that “there is no room in Jordan for Jordanians”—the country is also home to 1.8 million Palestinian and 450,000 Iraqi refugees1. Unlike their Palestinian and Iraqi predecessors, however, the majority of Syrians arrive with limited funds, placing an immediate burden on Jordan’s social services.
You can read the rest of the article here.