Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Jordan's Share of Syrian Refugees Decreases in 2014

Number of Registered Syrian Refugees in Jordan by the UNHCR. Notice how it has been mostly stable in 2014.

The year of 2014 saw 1 million added Syrian refugees fleeing mostly to the surrounding countries (See table below), unlike 2013 when the refugees headed in almost equal numbers to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, in 2014 most of them were registered in Lebanon and Turkey by the UNHCR, while much less refugees headed to Jordan. This is due to a number of logistical changes on the ground in terms of fighting and the increased number of economic refugees.

Host Country
Number of Registered Syrian Refugees (UNHCR)
Jan 2014
of Total
Jan 2015
of Total

Jordan, Stable South


The southern city of Daraa was the birthplace of the Syrian Revolution in 2011, during 2013 Daraa and the road to Damascus was one of the most important fronts for the Syrian Revolution. The different opposition groups, supported by alleged support and arms flowing through the Jordanian border, managed to gain many areas in the south during 2013, taking over the logistical town on Dael in March 213, and attempts to take over the entire city of Daraa itself, however, the Syrian regime was very fierce to defend Daraa due to its strategic location. Another area of fierce fighting was Golan Heights, also in the South, where Jabhat AlNusra made considerable progress and took over most of the area in 2013.

The instability in the South caused an exodus of Syrian refugees to flee to Jordan, and by the end of 2013 Jordan was host for more than half a million Syrian refugees. However, in 2014, the south part of Syria, just like most of the other battle fronts turned into a stalemate, due to the exhaustion of forces from all fighting fractions, and their inability to take over new grounds. the relative stability of the southern part of Syria, cause the decline of number of refugees heading to Jordan, and the share of Syrian refugees residing in Jordan declined from 25% to 19% of overall Syrian refugee population in 2014.

Turkey, the Rise of ISIS


In 2014, the focus of fighting moved to the north eastern part of Syrian, where ISIS managed to gain traction and took over large swathes of Syria from the exhausted fighting fractions of the Syrian Civil war, including the Syrian Regime, the Kurds, the Free Syrian Army, and Jabhat AlNusra. ISIS, brutally took over areas and ruled with an iron fist, imposing a strict rule over the locals. The fighting and ISIS brutality caused many residents of north eastern Syria to flee to Turkey, the closest country, the other neighboring country in that area was Iraq, which was not a good option due to instability there too.

ISIS quickly grew from a local problem to an international threat in 2014, and during the second half of 2014 the international coalition started bombing ISIS forces in both Iraq and Syria. This bombing further complicated the lives of locals and the exodus of refugees to Turkey continued, doubling the total number of refugees there by the end of 2014.

Lebanon, and Economic Refugees


After 2 years of Civil War, the fighting in most parts of Syria have decreased, but the economic situation of the country was dire. Syria was faced with increasing inflation, low wages and disruption of most economic activity. That is why many of Syrian started fleeing the country, not because of fighting, but for economic reasons, what the Lebanese Social Affairs minister called Economic Refugees

These refugees headed for Lebanon, being the most convenient option for a number of reasons, the first, is the ease of access, since Syrians could enter Lebanon without a visa or even a passport. The second reason being Lebanon's proximity to where these refugees come from, mostly from the central and western area of Syria which is relatively stable but faces mounting pressure from internal refugees and mounting economic problems. And lastly, the GDP per capita in Lebanon is twice that of Jordan, and has people speak Arabic in Lebanon as opposed to Turkey.

Looking ahead...


Looking ahead, ISIS forces have been put in check by the continued coalition bombardment, however, no other force in Syria has the ability to take over or to fill the void lift by ISIS, the situation in Syria seems to be heading towards a wider stalemate that includes ISIS areas, and the Syrian Regime is even showing new signs of willingness to participate in peace talks. Therefore, it is expected that 2015 will see lower flow of Humanitarian Syrian refugees than in 2014, unless new ground forces enter Syria, either from the coalition or the newly trained FSA troops.

Lebanon cannot take anymore Syrian refugees, and have increasingly restricted their access, starting with a wave of restrictions in June 2014, which including restricting access to people from areas with fighting, and lately, imposing a prearranged visa access on all Syrians starting from December 2014. The dire economic situation in Syria will continue, and with it Economic Refugees will continue to attempt to leave the country, Jordan and Turkey will receive more of those unless they impose similar restrictions.

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