96% of Syrian refugees ‘do not see themselves returning next year’ — UNHCR

2. جانب من مخيم الزعتري للاجئين السوريين بالمفرق
A general view of Zaatari refugee camp. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Some 5,800 Syrian refugees left Jordan in 2021, returning to their home country, even though full political stability in Syria remains a goal yet to be achieved. اضافة اعلان

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) data, 672,804 registered Syrian refugees are currently present in Jordan; the number of unregistered refugees continues to fluctuate. Of the registered refugees, 29.6 percent, or 199,069, reside in the Amman governorate, 25.1 percent live in Mafraq governorate, and 20.3 percent live in Irbid governorate.

UNHCR Spokesperson Lilly Carlisle told Jordan News that the official position of the organization is that “it is currently unsafe for refugees to return to Syria. However, the decisions to return at the moment are voluntary, taken by the refugees at the individual level, for a variety of reasons”. Those include the desire to reunite with families in Syria or to “set up their houses again”.

Carlisle also said that “over 96 percent of refugees surveyed in October by the UNHCR said that they do not see themselves returning in the next year. This shows that the number of refugees returning to Syria is actually small. Most of the cases of return have occurred mostly independently of the UNHCR. Refugees can contact us if they seek information on the question of returning to Syria”.

According to Carlisle, the Jordanian government has not changed its stance vis-à-vis Syrian refugees, so they are not forced to return.

“The Jordanian government has been very supportive of refugees staying in Jordan,” she said, adding that, like UNHCR, the government believes “the current situation is not conducive for a return by refugees”.

“The shift from a humanitarian approach to a development approach remains a challenge. Thinking longer term for these refugees is helpful, because at the moment, many of these Syrian refugees need employment, jobs to ensure that their children can go to school. These are some of their essential needs now, beyond the basics of food, water, and shelter,” Carlisle said, stressing that there will always be a segment of the refugee population that will continue to need humanitarian support, through cash assistance, for example.

“Most refugees want to return to Syria. It is only when we ask if they are able to return in the next year that they say that they are not so keen on that due to the current situation in Syria,” Carlisle said.

Jordan is one of the first countries to vaccinate refugees with COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021. The latest statistics from the UNHCR show that "48 percent of Syrian refugees living outside refugee camps have been vaccinated”, said Carlisle.

More than 1300 Syrian refugees have been vaccinated through the UNHCR’s three mobile vaccination units, which are found in the organization's registration centers, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. The most recent data reveals that roughly 74 percent of eligible refugees residing in the Azraq and Zaatari refugee camp have been inoculated.

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