Syrian Refugees in Jordan - Challenges and Opportunities

In partnership with the ‘Free Thought Forum’ FNF hosted H.E. Dr. Omar Razzaz, Chairman of the ‘Jordan Strategic Forum’, who talked about “Syrian Refugees in Jordan – Opportunities and Challenges.

 “We hope that the situation of Syrian refugees is temporary, it is known that the average of refugees in hosting communities is 17 years and only 50% of refugees leave back to their home countries. Anyway, we should not stay waiting” said Dr. Omar Razzaz.

He talked about the opening of the labor market for Syrian refugees especially in those sectors, characterized by work which many don’t want to accept because of the phenomena of what is called “The Culture of Shame”. These sectors are by now offering work for migrants from Asian countries and Egypt, while Jordanian youth refuse to work in such sectors. Syrians could be a replacement for these foreign labour force,  pointing that the Jordanian Society has suffered over the past 40 years from the rentier culture, which means an attitude of graduating from universities and waiting for a job in the public sector.

Commenting on the recent London Donor Conference, Razzaz said that what Jordan tried to emphasize two aspects: the first aspect was to receive funds for covering the budget deficit caused by the 1.5 million Syrians in Jordan, this aspect drew most of the attention of our delegation and the media. The other more important aspect, according to Razzaz, was opening the EU-Market to Jordanian commodities. Given such valuable opportunity this could lift up the Jordanian economy, but required that Jordan increases the quality of export products and succeeded in attracting European investments to Jordan.

“We have the chance now to leave the rentier culture behind”, Razzaz stressed, after he mentioned how countries like Turkey have benefited from open trade agreements with the European Union.

Razzaz also pointed out that Jordan didn’t succeed in best attracting Syrian investments. Jordan is only ranked fifth in the size of Syrian investments, after Turkey, Dubai, Egypt, and Lebanon.

8-9% is the needed annual economic growth rate in order to come up with 200,000 new job opportunities Jordan had promised to provide for refugees, not forgetting the fact that the level of unemployment among Jordanian youth is very high, which stresses the need to make a compact and great efforts towards the Jordanian youth to provide them with more job opportunities as well.

In the event second part of the event we heard was comments and questions by the active audience, who were activists, entrepreneurs, academics, party members, youth, media, Syrian journalists and Government officials.

Ali Soub stressed the need of having a national committee that takes care of Refugees affairs in Jordan, in all aspects. Dr. Rakan Dweiri said that we had to prepare for the crisis after the crisis, when the crisis in Syria comes to an end, we have to prepare for all the possibilities afterwards. Majd Al Zoubi, a Syrian refugee, first thanked Jordan for the hospitality towards Syrians, he said that Jordan should have more experience in coping with the refugees situation, since it has been facing such challenges for a very long time.

Participants approached organizers from the Free Thought Forum and FNF suggesting to have such events in areas which are more affected by the Syrian crisis, like Irbid and Mafraq. This in order to inform youth and other society components about the importance of engaging Syrian refugees in the workforce.

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