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Mon, 20 Jan 2020 11:20 GMT

Syrian Refugees Prefer Europe to Returning Home

Politics

Mohammad Ghazal

Mon, 21 May 2018 08:51 GMT

Abu Adnan, a Syrian refugee who lives in Amman along with his extended family, does not want to return to his home in Homs even if stability is restored in Syria, and would prefer to live in Europe or a Western country for a better life for his family and grandchildren.

The 58-year-old, who fled the violence in his home town for Jordan in 2012, lives with his wife, two daughters, a son and six grandchildren in an old house with cracked walls in one of Amman's eastern neighbourhoods.

As a refugee he relies on assistance he receives from charity organisations, help from neighbours and cash his family receives from the World Food Programme (WPF). He says his family live in "tough and inhumane" conditions and that the family's situation deteriorated when one of his legs was amputated last year after suffering from a severe case of diabetes.

"When my son in law was killed by the regime forces in 2012 and my house was hit by a missile, I decided to escape to Jordan with my kids and my six grandchildren…when we first arrived in Jordan, we lived in Zaatari camp, but later we left the camp and moved to Amman," Abu Adnan told 7Dnews.

"I rented a house for 80 dinars a month and used to work on a daily basis in restaurants; with the help of philanthropists we survived. When my leg was cut off, our situation worsened as we do not have an income and we rely mainly on assistance," he said.

In spite of the difficult conditions, Abu Adnan is pessimistic about an imminent return to Syria.

"Some of my relatives were jailed by the regime, many others were killed, my big house is badly damaged, and my vegetables store is gone, why would I return?" he asked.

"I get some aid but that is not enough. Amman is a very expensive city…as a diabetic person, I used to receive treatment at public healthcare centres and hospitals in Jordan for free but that was stopped a few years ago, which made it even more difficult," he said.

His wife agreed.

"My six grandchildren suffer from malnutrition…we rely mainly on assistance and I clean houses sometimes to get some extra money, but sometime the owners of the houses do not pay me as agreed…We agree that they’ll pay me 10 dinars a day and they end up giving me 3 or 4 and I have no option but to accept that," she said.

Abu Adnan, a registered refugee with the UNHCR, said he hoped to emigrate to Europe to secure a better life for his family.

"We are thankful to Jordan, but we cannot continue living in such miserable conditions…The refugees that went to Europe have a better life, have healthcare and their kids have a better future…If I am offered the chance to leave, I will leave Jordan but not for Syria… maybe to Germany or Canada," he said.

"With the presence of terrorists, the possibility of revenge and persecution and lack of justice and economic opportunities why would I return?", Abu Adnan asked.

Salma, not her real name, is another Syrian refugee who lives in the Al Aqsa neighbourhood in Amman with her 24-year-old son.

Salma fled Baniyas along with her son after her husband and many of his relatives were arrested by the Syrian regime forces and disappeared in 2013.

"My husband, who actively participated in demonstrations, told me that if he was arrested we should escape to Jordan and I came here along with my only child and my mentally disabled sister in law," Salma told 7Dnews.

Salma and her sister in law depend on her son and help they get from neighbours.

"Without the support of neighbours and charities, we would die from hunger…Most of my son's salary goes on rent for the house...living here needs large amounts of money as everything is expensive and prices keep going up," Salma said.

Salma hopes to join her sister and her family in Sweden.

"I want to emigrate to Sweden like my sister who has told me she is in a very good situation there and she has no worries about healthcare services or the education of her kids," she said.

"We have no future here, our future is in the West where people are treated better and there is good welfare…God knows what happened to my husband and I have not heard anything about him, but before he was arrested he told us never to return to Syria…I would be afraid to return to Syria and my son does not even think about that," she said.

Salma's and Abu Adnan's families are some of many Syrian families who, in spite of the increasingly difficult challenges they face, are still unwilling to return to their homeland unless a political transition takes place, according to a recent report launched by the Carnegie Middle East Centre (CMEC).

The report, which polled Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, indicated that roughly one in eight never want to return; these refugees are mostly young people who suffered serious trauma and say they have little left to return to—and therefore, for them, resettling in Europe is simply the only option to secure their future.

The report said that women and young men are among those most fearful of returning to Syria as they are concerned about the lack of security and possible persecution.

Many refugees worry about returning too soon, before a comprehensive solution to the country’s conflict is reached.

Refugees in Jordan, like those in Lebanon, also told stories of relatives or acquaintances who had returned to Syria only to be forced to serve in the army and die in battle, according to the report.

In both Lebanon and Jordan, most refugees were sceptical that stability and order would be restored in Syria anytime soon, according to the report.

"Refuges in dire need of help"

Jamal Al Shalabi, a professor of political science at the Hashemite University in Jordan said countries that host Syrian refugees in the Middle East such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey as well as the refugees themselves feel abandoned by the international community.

"The donor countries that pledged to help the refugees and support hosting countries did not fully honour their commitments…In Jordan for example, there are some 1.4 million Syrian refugees whose presence puts pressure on all sectors such as health and education," Shalabi told 7Dnews.

In 2017, Jordan said its total needs to provide aid to Syrian refugees stood at $2.65 billion. By the end of 2017, Jordan received only 64.8 per cent only of total needs, according to official figures.

The situation of refugees living in Jordan worsened amidst fatigue by the international agencies and a drop-in number of projects and interventions supporting the Syrian refugees, said Shalabi.

"There is a need for increasing aid that directly goes to the Syrian refugees and host countries as well to be able to provide decent services for the refugees until they can return home...For most of the refugees, they prefer to emigrate to Europe, Canada or the US than return to Syria or stay in neighbouring countries," he said.

Recent government measures in Jordan to increase sales tax, end bread subsidies and raise the prices of several commodities also played a role in increasing pressure on all the residents of the Kingdom, whether citizens or refugees, he said.


Middle East Europe