On September 7, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi announced that the Hashemite kingdom could no longer accept Syrian refugees. He stressed that the future of displaced Syrians lies within their own country.
During a joint press conference in Amman with Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin, Safadi said, “Jordan will not be able to receive more Syrian refugees.” The Jordanian official called for the international community to “bear the responsibility of providing the decent living that is a right for these refugees.”
“Jordan continues to cooperate with brothers and partners in order to end the Syrian crisis and provide conditions that guarantee a decent and safe life for Syrians in their homeland,” he added.
Also on Thursday, Najib Mikatti, Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, said during a cabinet session that welcoming additional refugees to Lebanon “threatens” its independence.
“[The entry of Syrian refugees] threatens our entity’s independence and could create harsh imbalances that could affect Lebanon’s demographic balance,” he said.
The “demographic” Mikatti mentioned likely relates to religious affiliation. The majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims. Around a third of Lebanon’s population are Christians. The other two-thirds are Shias and Sunnis, divided almost equally. According to the French-drafted Lebanese constitution, the three religious sects have an equal power division to suppress unrest.
The Foreign Minister delivered his comments hours after the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) announced they had prevented around 1,200 Syrians from crossing into Lebanon within the previous week.
“As part of the fight against human trafficking and illegal border crossings, army units thwarted attempts to infiltrate approximately 1,200 Syrians across the Lebanese-Syrian border on different dates this week,” the LAF announced. It said that over 1,000 Syrians were stopped from crossing into Lebanon the week before.
“The army and security forces are making commendable efforts to prevent unjustified migration convoys,” Mikati announced at the cabinet session.
According to numbers from the United Nations, Lebanon is a temporary home for more refugees per capita than any other country in the world. Palestinian and Syrian refugee camps are scattered throughout the country. While the UN says there are 805,000 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the actual figure is estimated to be between 1.5 million and 2 million.
Similar to the situation in Lebanon, Jordan is currently the temporary home of over 600,000 registered Syrian refugees. When you consider unregistered Syrians and those who have crossed in illegally, it is estimated that there are around 1.3 million Syrians currently in Jordan.
It needs to be kept in mind that these aren’t Syrians simply wanting to travel and move to a different country. More than 12 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced by the US-backed war that has ripped Syria apart for the previous 12 years.