Jordanian King says country is at ‘boiling point’

Jordanian King says his country is at ‘boiling point’ ahead of EU donor conference for Syrian refugees

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter (L) welcomes Jordan's King Abdullah upon his arrival for their meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, January 11, 2016

Jordan’s King Abdullah said his country is at “boiling point” as it tries to cope with influx of Syrian refugees.

“In the psyche of the Jordanian people, I think it’s gotten to a boiling point,” Abdullah said in an interview with BBC.

"Jordanians are suffering from trying to find jobs, the pressure on infrastructure and for the government, it has hurt us when it comes to the educational system, our healthcare. Sooner or later I think the dam is going to burst," he said.  

The interview came ahead of the EU donor conference that will be held in London on Thursday.

Jordan will also attend the conference that will be hosted by the EU institutions along with the UN and Kuwait.

The latest such conference was held in Kuwait in January 2015, and the EU had promised $1.1 million for the region.

The EU aims to double the aid this year, which will be used for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

"This week is going to be very important for Jordanians to see is there going to be help not only for Syrian refugees but for their own future as well," King Abdullah said.

"The international community, we've always stood shoulder to shoulder by your side. We're now asking for your help, you can't say no this time," he said.

Syrian refugees stand in line as they wait for aid packages at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, January 20, 2016

Troubled economy 

The United Nations has registered 635,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan since 2011. 

But a recent census by Jordan said there are 1.2 million Syrian refugees within the kingdom, double the number given by the UN.

The influx has overwhelmed the resource-poor country of 9.5 million people -including migrants and refugees- much of which is made up of desert.

Jordan’s debt amounts to more than $34.8 billion, or more than 90 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The Syrian crisis has cost Jordan $6.6 billion over the past five years, and will cost $2.7 billion in 2016 alone, according to Amman.

A Syrian refugee child receives treatment at a health center at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, January 30, 2016

The country also suffers from a slowdown in growth from 3.1 percent in 2014 down to 2.4 percent last year.

Ferid Belhaj, World Bank director for the Middle East, pointed out that the closure of frontier posts previously used for commercial traffic has heavily impacted Jordanian trade.

However, Jordan, part of the US led coalition in Syria, has recently been criticised after it decreased the number of refugees entering its Syrian border last year.

The kingdom allows for the entry of “between 50 to 100” refugees a day after recording them, Abdullah said.

He said Jordan will continue to “bring them across in limited numbers” and to “look after them on the other side.''

TRTWorld and agencies