More than 10 years of conflict in the Middle Eastern country of Syria has led to the world’s largest refugee crisis. Since the onset of the crisis in March 2011, more than 14 million Syrians have had to flee their home country in hopes of finding refuge elsewhere, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Addressing the Syrian refugee crisis is a priority for Syria’s neighboring countries and humanitarian organizations.
Tension at the Border
Syria has approximately a 100-mile-long coastline on the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iraq, to the south by Jordan and Israel and to the west by Lebanon. Militias, smuggling, the return of refugees and Syria’s 11-year war are the primary issues that the nation’s neighbors, like Jordan, are hoping to resolve for the safety of the region. Jordan has welcomed around 675,000 Syrian refugees since the conflict began but lacks the resources to adequately accommodate this high number of people.
In 2021, the Jordanian government opened a crucial border crossing and now hopes to strike a deal with Syria to declare a general amnesty that will allow Syrian refugees to return to their homeland and live in security and dignity. This will benefit surrounding countries that are struggling to care for refugees and face economic setbacks due to the ongoing war in Syria.
According to the World Bank, Syria’s GDP decreased by more than half between 2010 and 2020 due to destruction in Damascus, forced relocation, casualties and economic strain — a situation that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated.
On the other hand, Jordan’s economy is recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, with its real GDP growing by 2.2% in 2021. However, labor force participation, especially among women, is among the lowest in the world and the recent inflation problem has harshly hit already impoverished households.
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, roughly 92% of refugees who have sought refuge in neighboring countries reside in both urban and rural settings while only about 5% live in refugee camps. However, the U.N. Refugee Agency states that “living outside refugee camps does not necessarily mean success or stability” as “more than 70% of Syrian refugees are living in poverty, with limited access to basic services, education or job opportunities and few prospects of returning home.” These statistics serve as an important reminder that efforts to combat the Syrian refugee crisis are crucial for the Middle East.
Assisting Syrian Refugees
Established in 2011 by two Syrian Americans, Syria Relief and Development (SRD) is a nonprofit organization that offers humanitarian relief to Syrians who have been affected by hunger, injury, poverty, violence and mass displacement. The instability in Syria has prompted an urgent need for resources to meet shelter, food and medical needs. SRD is based in the U.S. but also has offices in Amman, Jordan, and Gaziantep, Turkey. From 2018 until 2023, SRD has provided more than $50 million worth of humanitarian aid to more than 3.3 million Syrians.
The U.N. Refugee Agency, noting that the crisis in Syria has now reached year 13 and the earthquakes occurring in February 2023 have exacerbated the crisis, is providing relief to Syrians in need. By the end of March 2023, the U.N. Refugee Agency had provided “core relief items,” such as sleeping bags, thermal blankets and solar lamps, to 168,000 Syrians affected by the recent earthquakes. Furthermore, under the Agency’s usual winterization initiative, more than 560,000 Syrians received “winter core relief items” from November 2022 to March 2023. During this period, about 17,700 Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers received cash-based assistance to make it through the harsh winter.
With continued support from Syria’s neighbors as well as organizations like the SRD and the U.N. Refugee Agency, there could be visible regional economic and social shifts in the near future and the Syrian refugee crisis may see relief.
– Stella Tirone