Syria's urban refugees in Jordan falling through the aid safety net

Published: 4th April 2013

As thousands of Syrians continue to flee conflict every day, seeking safety in neighboring countries, aid agencies who are responding to the refugee crisis warn that the refugees risk being cut off from help as they seek shelter in Jordan’s towns and cities.

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban areas, outside of formal camp settings. Aid agencies say it makes it harder for them to access vital help as the refugee population is widely dispersed in Jordan’s cities and towns.

Assessments carried out in host communities in Jordan by aid agencies CARE International and Oxfam have found that refugees are facing increased debt as they struggle to pay for soaring rent and rising costs for food, water and other basic essentials.

Many refugees in urban areas of Jordan are living in unheated or unfurnished apartments or garages, which are often overcrowded, with as many as twenty people, normally from extended family groups, sharing two or three rooms.

Jordan generous, but stretching its limits

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of CARE International UK said:

“The refugee crisis in urban areas is far less visible, but no less serious, than in the refugee camps. No matter where refugees seek shelter, we must ensure that they do not continue suffering.”

The Jordanian government is to be commended for keeping its border open and providing assistance for the refugees, despite severely strained resources. Jordanian host communities have also been extremely generous; but tensions are starting to arise because of the increase in refugee numbers and mounting pressure on limited services.

Syrian refugees have access to primary health care and schooling in Jordan, but often the available services are already stretched to the limit or far from their homes. Rental prices have gone up two to three times in the last year and there’s also been an increase in food and gas prices.

Desperate measures

Oxfam’s Syria response crisis manager, Francis Lacasse, said:

“Syrian refugees in host communities urgently need help. As long as they have no access to income, their problems will only multiply. People are already running out of money for rent and basic needs; refugees are taking loans from each other, but soon there will be nothing left for them to borrow.”

“Families will be forced to desperate measures to get by; many are already obliged to beg for food. They are deeply ashamed to do this, but they have no choice.”

The number of refugees fleeing Syria into Jordan has surged since the beginning of the year. More than 367,000 have sought registration with the UNHCR although the Jordanian government estimates the total figure is as high as 420,000.

Research by the aid agencies shows that the average level of debt among urban refugees is US$650, which represents about three months' rent.

Related links

Donate to Oxfam's Syria response

Blog: Syrian refugee influx adding to Jordan’s water worries

The crisis in Syria and Oxfam's response

Refugees are taking loans from each other, but soon there will be nothing left for them to borrow.
Francis Lacasse
Oxfam’s Syria response crisis manager

Notes to editors

Oxfam is planning to provide cash assistance to some of the most vulnerable populations in Jordan and support both host families and refugees with water.

CARE International is addressing the needs of thousands of Syrian refugees living in vulnerable host communities, primarily through assistance to help pay for food and housing as well as information assistance, referrals and support to families.

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Contact information

Care International:

  • In Jordan: Deborah Underdown, +44 207 091 6063 or +962 775 459 445


  • In Jordan: Caroline Gluck, + 44 7867 976 041 or + 962 790 625217,
  • In the UK: Lucy Brinicombe, +44 1865 472192,
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