King Abdullah of Jordan, alongside his Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh have once again attempted to deflect criticism from their own regime’s failures by blaming external events. In this case, they are blaming the spillover of Syrian refugees across the border into Jordan for many of the nation’s recent difficulties. The spillover of Syrian refugees has been occurring since the Syrian revolution, and the effects of it cannot be ignored.
According to UNHCR approximately 205,000 refugees have entered the country and this number is only expected to increase. Jordan has always been notable for its open-door policies regarding its surrounding countries, as seen in 2007 with the spillover of Iraqi refugees, not to mention that 67 percent of the population is of Palestinian origin. The effects of these refugees have hurt and will continue to hurt Jordan economically, socially, and politically. First, these refugees are not allowed to work in the country, leaving them economically strained. Second, Jordan doesn’t have the funds to support these refugees, leaving 70 percent of the them dispersed in the cities along the border with Syria rather than the refugee camps, creating problems for aid groups attempting to locate them and provide assistance. More importantly, Jordan doesn’t have the means to support its own people let alone outsiders seeking refuge from conflict.
In an interview with Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch, Nasser Judeh asserts that not only has the international community not helped aid Jordan in this crisis, but also this crisis will deeply hurt Jordan. However, the regime is no way in trouble solely due to the spillover of refugees. The protests in Jordan that have occurred every Friday since January 2011 have rarely if not ever called for the government to address the Syria issue, rather the people taking to the streets are demanding reform regarding domestic issues such as corruption, the economic crisis, the role of the Mukhabarat (Jordanian state security) in people’s everyday lives, human rights violations, and so forth.
We must also note that in 2007, the Jordanian government inflated the number of Iraqi refugees coming into the country to receive more international funding. Once this funding was received, Jordan did not efficiently allocate the funding to solve the crisis. Would it be above this regime to inflate the number of Syrian refugees in the country at some point to obtain additional funding?
The true impact of the spillover of Syrian refugees into Jordan can only be analyzed seriously if the regime is truthful about the rest of the issues it’s facing. Jordan is not going to fall because of these refugees, but the crisis in Syria is going to deeply affect the current problems the regime, and the nation at large are facing. One cannot address the issues of the influx of refugees in its proper context until the other demands for reform are either met or at least talked about in a serious manner that isn’t intended to simply appease the people by promising fictional reform, and blaming events outside of Jordan when the regime does not live up to its promises.