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Jordan: As Azraq camp marks 10 years, long-term solutions remain elusive for Syrian refugees

Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, now in its second decade, continues to face challenges including severe resource shortages and limited economic opportunities, affecting over 42,000 Syrian refugees. Despite innovative coping strategies by residents, cuts in humanitarian aid and restricted mobility greatly hinder their ability to achieve self-reliance and improve living conditions.

Tina Abu Hann/NRC

Posted on 30 Apr 2024

As Azraq camp enters its second decade of life, residents struggle to meet basic needs, exacerbated by continued aid cuts. Despite significant needs and dwindling resources, long-term solutions to the displacement of Syrian refugees residing in the camp remain out of reach. This reality is a primary concern for the Jordan INGO Forum (JIF) and it network of over 50 aid agencies.

Azraq camp opened in April 2014 to ease pressure on Zaatari refugee camp when an influx of conflict-affected refugees overwhelmed capacity. Today, more than 42,000 Syrian refugees are registered in Azraq camp. While the camp’s infrastructure includes schools, a hospital, and a solar power plant, living conditions remain quite stark, with electricity and access to water challenges.

The camp’s steel shelters – many of which are being used beyond their lifespan and require significant maintenance – offer families little protection against the desert climate. After 10 years, camp infrastructure, including shelters, is aging and needs substantial resources for maintenance.

While efforts have been made to green Azraq, the camp set up does not align with national climate resilience goals, and refugees have limited ability to get supplies needed to make repairs and introduce green initiatives based on what is available in the camp market.

Despite limited resources, refugees in Azraq have demonstrated resilience and found creative solutions to adapt to camp life that include the use of hydroponics to gro strawberries in kitchen gardens and modifying single room shelters with makeshift dividers.

With no public transport in the camp, refugees have gone as far as converting bicycles into electric bikes to improve mobility. Despite these examples, the past year has seen substantial reductions in assistance for refugees in Jordan that is affecting more than 640,000 Syrian refugees countrywide.

Residents in Azraq say families are resorting to negative coping strategies to meet basic needs.

Parents are taking their children out of school to work so their children can eat […] Some parents think it’s better to marry off their very young daughters when they can’t provide for them

/  Ahmad - Camp Resident

Cuts in assistance have and will continue to negatively impact refugees in Azraq camp where economic opportunities and channels to self-reliance remain scarce. Surrounded by desert, Azraq’s isolated nature makes finding and getting to work outside of the camp difficult.

Additionally, there are limited employment opportunities available outside the camp, and restrictions curtail the movement of people and goods in and out of the camp. Short-term paid volunteer positions, with international organizations, previously provided temporary income opportunities, but the availability of these opportunities has declined significantly due to humanitarian funding shortfalls.

Jordan continues to be a generous host for refugees, despite economic challenges, including high levels of unemployment. The JIF urges the international community to continue to share the responsibility for the health and welfare of refugees and provide sufficient long-term funding to create sustainable opportunities and support refugees to build self-reliance in Azraq camp and beyond.

In coordination with camp authorities, this can begin with more freedom of movement of people, goods, and services in and out the camps, such as opportunities for refugees who are motivated to work, travel and study outside camp settings. Maximizing the impact of donor funding requires a collective effort to reduce the barriers refugees face to become self-reliant.

After 13 years in exile, Syrian refugees need long term solutions to their displacement. Conditions in Syria remain unconducive for the safe return of refugees. Good faith multi-stakeholder planning and dialogue is required to understand the best way forward considering resource constraints and the need for continued support for the refugee response in Jordan.

More than 10,700 refugees were resettled to third countries in 2023 which represents a positive development for the future of eligible refugees. However, this is not sufficient given the prospect of resettlement remains out of reach for many. JIF encourages all governments to share responsibility for hosting refugees by increasing their intake of refugees through resettlement.

The reality is that most Syrian refugees will remain in Jordan until it is safe to return to their home of origin. In the medium term, they must be supported to achieve self-reliance in ways that can benefit both refugees and their host communities.

Lifting barriers that impede refugees from accessing or creating economic opportunities, will allow Jordan to harness refugees’ under-utilized skills and potential in ways that contribute to Jordan’s economic growth and job creation.

Some people have no income except the food vouchers. The elderly and single women really suffer.... Before, we used to eat fruit and meat, but now we don’t see them unless it is a special occasion.

/  Sanaa - Camp Resident

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