Prince El Hassan

International community must step up for a fairer refugee system

In Jordan, refugees disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

The following article was written as a foreword by World Refugee & Migration Council (WRMC) Honorary Chair HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal to our research summary report Challenges Facing Syrian Refugees and Jordan: Pressures from a Pandemic.

In “Challenges Facing Syrian Refugees and Jordan: Pressures from a Pandemic” the WRMC provides a comprehensive view of the effect of the Syrian refugee crisis and the COVID-19 crises at micro and macro levels. At the refugee level, the document looks at the outcomes of the pandemic itself, and the consequences of states’ responses to pandemic on refugees’ livelihoods, health, and prospects of return to Syria. The research shows that the security, economic, and health situations in Syria discourage refugees from seeking return, with only 150,000 doing so in 2019, leaving more than 1.36 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, according to Jordan’s official figures. As a result, refugees, as some of the most vulnerable members of a society, remain disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

At the macro level, the research explores the economic effects of the pandemic on the economies of Jordan and Syria, noting its destructive consequences on the latter, compounded with the costs of violence and instability. In Jordan, the fourth largest host of refugees per capita in the world according to the UNHCR, the pandemic and refugee crises have placed tremendous pressures on an economy that is already struggling because of regional instability, limited natural resources, fiscal deficit, declining economic growth rates, high unemployment rates and overburdened infrastructure.

This report looks at three themes: “Syrian Refugees in Jordan, with a Particular Focus on Return”; “Impact of COVID-19 on Syrian Refugees in Jordan from the Refugee Perspective”; And “Syrian Refugees and the Consequences of COVID-19 In Syria and Jordan”. While doing a remarkable job at conveying the struggles and points of views of Syrian refugees, the WRMC has also succeeded in conveying the burdens faced by Jordan as a host country and the government efforts to control the pandemic among Jordanians and refugees alike.

With this report, the WMRC provides governmental decision-makers, activists, non-governmental organizations, philanthropists, multilateral development banks and the private sector with evidence-based data, to motivate them to revisit and honor their commitments towards refugees and refugee-hosting countries. It is high time that across global policy frameworks, refugee return and reintegration is positioned at the heart of policies towards conflict response, development, and building resilience. Meanwhile, it is important to remember that it is increasingly difficult for host countries to continue coping given the current COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. Moreover, Syria, like other refugee hosting countries of origin, requires international aid and investment to rebuild areas of high displacement and create conditions conducive to sustainable return and reintegration. As the “Call to Action” published recently by WRMC reminds us, the issue of refugees is a global one, with the need for obligations to be shared, including financial contributions and resettlement and other expressions of solidarity, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. A fair, equitable and predictable mechanism for sharing responsibility for refugees needs to be urgently developed. 

It is my hope that the international community will step up and work together for a fairer refugee system.

HRH Prince El Hassan Bin Talal

I reemphasize the WRMC’s calls for multilateral responses whereby the international community increases support for capacity-building in host governments at the national, and local levels to administer funds, and to incorporate a focus on collective outcomes in their programming and reporting. This should also be done through adopting a holistic approach to support host countries, including focusing on the water, energy and food nexus. It is no longer possible to ignore the centrality of natural resources and climate change in relation to refugees any longer. 

The WRMC has called on regional development banks to provide more concessional financial support to countries hosting refugees. The Council reminds that while the World Bank has taken important steps toward increasing its support for countries hosting refugees, there is an important role for regional development banks as well. This is perhaps the time where a regional development bank servicing the Levant area is most needed. 

It is my hope that the international community will step up and work together for a fairer refugee system. International solidarity is not only needed to fight the pandemic, but it is also the right way to achieve security and a global recovery in the post pandemic era. The world is as strong as its weakest link. 

HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal
Honorary Chair, World Refugee & Migration Council