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Ahead of EU meeting, Jordan says Syrian refugees being abandoned

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Brussels: The international community is abandoning Syrian refugees as funding to support them in host countries dwindles, Jordan‘s foreign minister said on Monday ahead of an EU-led donor conference over the 13-year-old war.

The EU conference aims to keep the war and support for millions of refugees on the agenda, but as the economic and social burden on neighbouring countries mounts the bloc is divided and unable to find solutions, diplomats say.

Syria has become a forgotten crisis that nobody wants to stir, amid the Israeli war in Gaza and tensions growing between Iran and Western powers over its regional activities.

“We’re going to be sending a very clear message from Jordan as a host country that we feel that refugees are being abandoned”, Ayman Safadi told reporters on arrival in Brussels. “Host countries are being abandoned.”

Although President Bashar al-Assad has long since reasserted control over most of Syria in a war that began with a 2011 uprising against him, more than 5 million refugees mostly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan and millions more displaced internally still have little prospect of returning home.

Funding to support them is dropping with the likes of the World Food Programme reducing its aid. Countries say hosting refugees is an increasing burden, notably in economic crisis-hit Lebanon.

Jordan is hosting around 1.3 million Syrians. Safadi said the issue “can only be solved by them going back to their country. So we need to focus more on creating conditions conducive for them to return voluntarily”.

European and Arab ministers along with key international organisations meet for the 8th Syria conference, but beyond vague promises and financial pledges there are few signs that Europe can take the lead, diplomats said.

The talks come just ahead of the European elections on June 6-9 in which migration is a divisive issue among the bloc’s 27-member states. With far-right and populist parties already expected to do well, there is little appetite to step up refugee support.

An upswing in migrant boats from Lebanon to Europe, with Cyprus and Italy major destinations, has prompted some EU countries to warn of a big new influx into the bloc.

“We’ll continue to do everything we can. But unless we’re helped, unless the international community shoulders its responsibility, there will be a decrease in services and there will be more suffering for refugees”, Safadi said.

Published 27 May 2024, 12:18 IST

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