August 08, 2013
Still more come from elsewhere. Due to the Syrian Civil War Jordan estimates 600,000 have entered its borders. Having fled largely with nothing, these people require government support merely to subsist.
Beyond the sheer numbers, costs, and legitimate resentments of ordinary citizens are the sectarian differences. In Jordan 92% of the population is Muslim, primarily Sunni. It is roughly 6% Christian, though this quotient was as high as 30% in 1950 (prior to the mass influx). There are 2% of “others” which are mainly Druze located in the north, where Syrian refugees are now overwhelming them.
Most Palestinian migrants are Sunni, Christian, or Druze. Iraqis are approximately 60% Sunni, 18% Shia, and 15% Christian. Syrians account for both Sunni and Shia, with exact percentages difficult if not impossible to obtain. An additional Syrian complication is that significant portions are also Palestinian refugees, hence faced with greater governmental restrictions. Overall, it is a powder keg of religious personalities.
Jordan is not a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Amman insists numerous Iraqis are actually “guests” rather than “refugees” with no right to remain. It is likely this will also be the official position regarding the swelling numbers of Syrians.
There are no easy solutions. Despite ongoing discussions an Israeli peace is doubtful at best. Violence in Iraq is increasing, not abating. If al-Assad is victorious in Syria, as is every indication he shall be, it is dubious there will be a mass repatriation from Jordan absent compulsion.
And all the while Jordan and its people are pressed by the “international community” to pour on the largesse. A shadow economy (and millions of shadow workers) is a poor kind of profitability and is often a mirage of economic prosperity. Some unscrupulous Jordanians obviously benefit from the ability to exploit vulnerable people, yet many more are harmed and deprived by their presence.
What will it take before there is a popular rejection of this perpetual influx of the unwanted? How many millions of needy are required to rouse a generous people to vehement rejection of their position as patrons for an entire region? Will Jordanians forever be content to sacrifice their birthright to those whose only claim upon it is a lost war across their border?
Westerners hear very little of Jordan these days. Should the stream of refugees not subside, we will be hearing much more from it in years to come.