Testimony by Hardin Lang on the Humanitarian Impact of the Ongoing Conflict in Syria

 March 18, 2022

Testimony of Hardin Lang
Vice President of Programs and Policy
Refugees International
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee: Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism
“11 Years of War: The Humanitarian Impact of the Ongoing Conflict in Syria”
March 16, 2022


I.                Overview

Thank you to Chairman Deutch, Ranking Member Wilson, and members of this subcommittee for holding today’s hearing.

Refugees International (RI) has reported on the Syrian crisis from the beginning, conducting field research both inside Syria and neighboring refugee-hosting countries. Refugees International is a non-governmental organization that advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people in parts of the world impacted by conflict, persecution, and forced displacement. Refugees International investigates and reports on the circumstances of displaced populations in countries such as Poland, Ethiopia, Mexico, Greece, and Bangladesh, among many others. We do not accept government or United Nations funding, which helps ensure that our advocacy is impartial and independent.

It bears remembering that the situation in Syria remains the world’s single largest displacement crisis—by a long shot. Some 6 million Syrians continue to seek refuge outside their country, and more than 6 million people are displaced within Syria. Countries near to Syria have borne the most significant responsibility. For more than a decade, they have taken in and sheltered millions of Syrians—numbers that, at times, have not received enough acknowledgment from the international community. In addition, the lifesaving assistance donors, and particularly the United States, have provided has been critical during the years of this protracted displacement crisis, as Refugees International has seen in our field assessments.

Most Syrians who are registered as refugees with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) remain in neighboring Jordan (670,000), Lebanon (844,000), and Turkey (3.65 million). However, the actual number of forcibly displaced Syrians in the region is likely much higher. Jordan’s latest census reports 1.3 million Syrians, while Lebanon counts 1.5 million. Turkey remains the world’s largest hosting country, and Lebanon and Jordan host the most refugees per capita globally. Eleven years into Syria’s civil war, this quantitative picture shows few signs of significant change.

Inside Syria, overall levels of violence have fallen sharply, but areas of the country are still contested. The ceasefire in Idlib in northwest Syria remains fragile, and the situation in the northeast of the country is beginning to deteriorate. The country’s economy is in free fall. An estimated 13 million people require humanitarian assistance. Perhaps more importantly, the consolidation of regime control over much of the country has only entrenched Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s repression.

According to Human Rights Watch, Syrian refugees “who voluntarily returned to Syria between 2017 and 2021 from Lebanon and Jordan faced grave human rights abuses and persecution at the hands of the Syrian government and affiliated militias, including torture, extra-judicial killings, and kidnappings.”[i] Returning refugees have also found their homes destroyed and cannot afford essential food items or services. The Syrian government has also enacted a law allowing it to seize refugees’ property.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that relatively few Syrian refugees are going home of their own accord. All told, just over 305,000 Syrian refugees have returned voluntarily to Syria. Last year, the annual returns fell to roughly 36,000 people, and the rate is not expected to increase throughout 2022. Moreover, UNHCR’s latest return intentions survey in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq suggests that while most Syrians wish to return one day (70 percent), only a small number planned to do so within the following 12 months (2.4 percent).[ii]

At the same time, Syrians in the region face increasing pressure to return. While host governments continue to support some services for refugees and assistance continues through the United Nations and international and local organizations, public resources and infrastructure are increasingly strained. Moreover, domestic political will in host countries to sustain support for refugees is wearing thin. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown in host countries have significantly impacted refugee livelihoods, health, and access to services.

Countries in the region are to be congratulated on the welcome they often accorded Syrians in the early days of the war. However, the overall record has always been somewhat mixed, and, over time, some of these governments have adopted more exclusionary and restrictive policies towards Syrian refugees. The political pressures resulting from general economic uncertainty impacting host communities often drive these policies. The COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting impacts on regional economies have accentuated these pressures. In addition, leaders in some host countries have faced—and in some cases egged on—growing public discontent with the continued presence of Syrian refugees.

Recent trends give cause for concern. Turkey has deported refugees to Syria and threatened to send millions more back into a “safe zone” along the border in northern Syria. In Lebanon, Syrians have a precarious legal status and have been increasingly subjected to security checks, evictions, random arrests, and occasional deportations. Moreover, the Jordanian government has refused to offer refuge or aid to Syrians living in desperate conditions just across the Jordanian border in Rukban camp.

The hard truth is that Syrian refugees remain caught between a rock and a hard place—unable to go home but facing worsening conditions in their host communities. These host communities now often endure humanitarian indicators akin to their Syrian guests in places like Lebanon.

Nor does the prospect of resettlement offer a real light at the end of the tunnel for these refugees. The United States and European governments—except for Germany—have implemented policies that have limited durable solutions for Syrians in these countries. UNHCR currently estimates that more than 612,415 Syrians are sufficiently vulnerable in their current host country as to need resettlement.[iii] However, the total number of Syrians resettled via UNHCR throughout the war is roughly 174,900. Moreover, annual rates of resettlement have fallen consistently since 2016.[iv] Last year, 17,519 Syrian refugees departed for resettlement in other countries.[v] And U.S. resettlement of Syrians was nearly non-existent.[vi]

The bottom line is that some kind of integration in host countries offers the only viable, safe, and dignified pathway for the vast majority of Syrian refugees in the region for the foreseeable future. Such an approach could signal an end to exile but would need to be accompanied by a significant increase in resettlement in Western countries. To this end, the United States, European counties, and other donors must find better ways to address the plight of Syrian refugees and support their host communities in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. The situation in each of these countries differs in important ways. An effective policy response must therefore provide boutique solutions attuned to each context.

II.             Turkey

Turkey hosts the world’s largest refugee population, including 3.6 million Syrians. Most of these refugees reside in host communities across the country. Their children attend Turkish schools. While Syrian refugees often receive humanitarian assistance, many work to provide for their families. Initially, Turkey openly welcomed Syrian refugees. However, eleven years into the Syria crisis, the climate for Syrians in Turkey has reached a critical juncture.

Turkey’s economy is in decline. The rate of economic growth has slowed consistently since the onset of the Syrian civil war. Unemployment is on the rise. Over time, public sentiment in Turkey has hardened against refugees. In 2014, a public opinion survey found that almost 58 percent of respondents rejected the notion that “the refugees should be sent back to their country.”[vii] Five years later, 83 percent “called for the return of all refugees and disagreed with the government’s policy of hosting them.”[viii]

Turkish policy has also become less welcoming. Since 2017, registration for Syrian refugees in Turkey—and the accompanying identity card (“kimlik,” in Turkish) that opens the door to benefits, such as free education, health care, and EU cash assistance—has become increasingly restricted. In addition, a number of provinces have ceased registration of Syrians,[ix] including some of those with the highest concentration of Syrian refugees.[x]

In 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to move a million or more Syrian refugees into a “safe zone” corridor running along the border and stretching 30km into northern Syria.[xi] Beyond humanitarian and normative concerns and international legal obligations, the plan is logistically unfeasible.[xii] While Turkey has not yet tried to implement the plan, the government has pressured refugees to return to Syria. Turkish authorities have conducted widespread identity checks in Syrian neighborhoods. Syrian men were also reportedly coerced into signing voluntary repatriation forms. Rights groups report that there has been a wave of deportations of Syrian men to Idlib, which remains under threat of a Syrian regime offense and subject to sporadic Russian bombing.[xiii]

Syrian refugees in Turkey describe an increasingly hostile environment where acts of xenophobia are ordinary.[xiv] Most Syrian refugees who work do so in the informal labor market.[xv] Turkey established a work permit system for Syrian refugees in 2016. However, employers must request permits and are often unwilling to go through the permit process.[xvi] Most refugees end up in low-paying jobs, many of them in small textile workshops and construction.[xvii] Women make up about half of Turkey’s Syrian refugee population, but comparatively few have jobs. Only about 15 percent of Syrian women engage in gainful employment, and even fewer have work permits.[xviii] This is how a widowed Syrian refugee mother of three recounted her experience in Turkey earlier this week during an RI event: 

I left Idlib in 2019, after the Syrian regime took my hometown in Maarat al-Nu’maan. For almost 9 years, I never left. But I was left with no choice. In Turkey, I had to start from scratch. I arrived at a time when Turkey had become a difficult place for Syrians. I have no access to work and can’t get a work permit. In Idlib, I had come a long way since the start of the revolution. I was a mom and a teacher. I became a revolutionary and a right activist. I tried to volunteer with organizations. I had my triumphs and my failures. My failures are due to laws and exploitation here in Turkey. I want to harness all the power in me, continue to break the stereotypes, continue to learn and study, contribute to the cause of women and the Syrian revolution. But I feel constrained here with no prospect.[xix]

Despite these challenges, most Syrian refugees have built lives in Turkey. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, almost a million Syrians worked in Turkey, mostly in the informal sector. More than 750,000 Syrian students are in Turkish public schools. Syrian refugees in Turkey do not want to return. The conditions that might make them consider returning to Syria will not exist for the foreseeable future. 

Key instruments for meeting the humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey include the UN regional refugee response plan (3RP) and the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRIT). The latter emerged out of the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement. While concerns have emerged in some quarters over the channeling of funding through the Turkish government, support via the FRIT accounts for almost 80 percent of international aid to refugees and their host communities.[xx] The FRIT has delivered both a social safety net, including education and healthcare and a system of cash transfers for the Syrian refugee households.[xxi] All told, some €6 billion euros have been committed, and €4.5 billion disbursed through the facility.[xxii] In addition, the European Commission has announced another €325 million for humanitarian assistance and €560 million for refugee education to run through early 2023.

Barring a massive effort to deport millions of refugees into northern Syria forcibly, Syrian refugees are likely to remain in Turkey for some time to come, making self-sufficiency, inclusion with dignity, and, for many if not most, some kind of integration as the only real viable pathway to a solution. As a report from the Center for American Progress has observed, Turkey’s grinding economic slowdown could continue, and poor Syrians could emerge as a permanent underclass.[xxiii] A better course would see Turkey—with international support—finding a way to strengthen the self-reliance and resilience of Syrian refugees living within its borders.

III.          Jordan

Jordan hosts 670,000 registered refugees, but the government puts the figure closer to 1.3 million. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have settled in urban and rural communities, but roughly 130,000 displaced Syrians live in camps. In 2016, the government signed the “Jordan Compact” with the EU and the World Bank. The agreement called for the issuance of work permits to 200,000 Syrian refugees and to open the labor market to foreign workers.

As of June 2021, a total of 239,024 work permits have been issued.[xxiv] Jordan has also demonstrated support for refugee self-reliance by simplifying the documentation requirements for work permits and allowing the registration and operation of home-based businesses – something Refugees International called for.[xxv] In addition, as of July 2021, the Jordanian government expanded the rules to give Syrian refugees access to all sectors open to non-Jordanians.[xxvi] However, many other professions remain closed to refugees. Moreover, the Jordan Compact—and the Jordan Response Plan (JRP)—fell short of including the Kingdom’s nearly 90,000 non-Syrian refugees from Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and other countries, which has exacerbated their already dire conditions.[xxvii]

Unfortunately, some of the economic and social gains made under the Compact have been rolled back by Jordan’s weakening economy and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, 4 in 5 Syrian refugees in Jordan fell below the poverty line. The situation worsened with the economic shutdown that accompanied the pandemic. Across the globe, sectors in which refugees work were particularly hard hit by the closures. In Jordan, a UN survey found that “68 percent of the refugees have seen their income drop” during the pandemic.[xxviii]

Food insecurity among refugees doubled over the first year of the pandemic.[xxix] According to the UN “only 2 percent of refugee households can meet their essential food needs without any negative coping strategies.”[xxx] Key donor-funded programs like the World Food Program (WFP) cash-based support system face severe funding shortfalls, forcing agencies to cut food subsidies for at-risk beneficiaries. In June 2021, the WFP announced that 21,000 refugees would no longer receive cash assistance due to a lack of funds, and another 250,000 refugees may see reduced food assistance.[xxxi]

Jordan made the commendable decision to include refugees in its national COVID-19 response plans. In 2021, Jordan initiated the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine program for Syrian refugees, making vaccines available to those living inside and outside camps. As of February 2022, 90 percent of Syrian refugees in camps have been vaccinated, and 50 percent of those living outside of camps have been vaccinated.

Syrian refugees have access to healthcare in Jordan, but the cost can be high. In February 2018, the Jordanian government abruptly “cut the health subsidies for Syrian refugees from 80 percent to 20 percent of their costs.”[xxxii] UNHCR provides some support, but a lack of funding limits what most refugees can afford. Some told Refugees International that they now avoid going to the doctor due to the higher fees. “Instead, they self-medicate or take their medication infrequently to make it last longer.”[xxxiii] A 2021 UN health survey found that almost 87 percent of Syrian refugees could not afford medicines—up from 52 percent in 2018.[xxxiv]

Syrian refugees are also exposed to the climate-related challenges linked to increasing desertification, the loss of fragile ecosystems, and water scarcity in Jordan. In addition, the Kingdom’s economic challenges and rising unemployment have created domestic challenges for average Jordanians, the stressors of which are also felt by refugees who must also compete formally and informally for jobs. Jordan’s water scarcity is already creating ripples across critical industries in Jordan, particularly agriculture, where thousands of Syrian refugees are currently employed.

Without water supplies, Jordan’s crop cultivation will be insufficient to meet the nation’s food demands. More recently, the Ukraine crisis has deepened fear over long-term global food security. With grain imports from Ukraine and Russia affected by the crisis, the price of Jordan’s food imports is expected to rise. This will affect food procurement for refugees, whose cash assistance will lose buying power due to rising inflation.

The trends in Jordan are worrisome, but refugees are not likely to go home anytime soon. Despite high hopes following a 2018 ceasefire in southern Syria, only 41,000 Syrians have returned voluntarily. For many Syrian refugees in Jordan, conditions in Syria are not yet conducive for safe, sustainable, and dignified return. Most Syrian refugees in Jordan originate from the southern province of Dara’a, where assassinations and outbreaks of violence have become day-to-day occurrences.

Last August, the resurgence of violence in the provincial capital – Dara’a City – between government forces and reconciled militias left many people dead and hundreds displaced. The residual instability paired with reduced international commitments to resettle refugees and the emergence of new humanitarian crises paint a grim picture for hundreds of thousands who remain in Jordan.

IV.           Rukban

Across the border from Jordan lies Rubkan camp, where Syrians have been stranded since fleeing the Syrian government in 2014. An estimated 10,000 Syrians reportedly remain in the Rukban camp without regular food, water, or medicine. The last UN humanitarian convoy to bring aid to Rukban arrived in late 2019. As a result, camp residents have been forced to rely on smuggler networks to provide necessities for survival. The remaining clinic in the camp lacks supplies or medicine to address even the slightest of illnesses, let alone offer any form of COVID-19 care or treatment. As a result, even the most preventable and treatable ailments are often a death sentence to residents.

Mothers and their children are among those who suffer due to limited access to basic necessities and medical care. There are reports of newborns and young mothers dying during childbirth due to preventable complications on several occasions. Since 2020, the UNICEF clinic inside Jordan, which provided emergency treatments for Rukban residents, has not been able to access people in the camp except on rare occasions because the Jordanians closed the border in response to COVID-19.  

Prior to COVID-19, Jordan had acquiesced and opened its border for emergency cases to receive treatment in Jordan. However, the subsequent border closure forced greater reliance on the U.S.-led At-Tanf Garrison, just a few kilometers from the camp. On one occasion, U.S. special forces were called upon to deliver a baby after Jordan closed their border. While it is not the mission of U.S. Special Forces at Tanf to provide aid, their control of the 55-kilometer zone in eastern Syria has made them the de-facto authorities, alongside their Syrian partners—Maghwair al Thawra.  

The Syrian government has blocked UN aid efforts for Rukban, and Jordan has also restricted any UN aid across its border. This week, a newborn girl faces life-threatening medical complications and requires specialized medical treatment, which is available in Jordan but is not now accessible. The crisis at Rukban is dire; it has remained dire for nearly eight years without a glimmer of hope or a plan to alleviate the suffering of its Syrian residents. 

V.              Lebanon

One of the most concerning refugee situations in the region is Lebanon. The country hosts one of the highest ratios of refugees per capita—one in five people is a refugee. Lebanon’s initial open-door policy fell by the wayside by late 2014. The government started imposing strict regulations that limited access to residency for Syrians. However, Lebanon tacitly allowed Syrian refugees to remain in the country while ensuring that they lived in an atmosphere of uncertainty and insecurity.

Syrians are subjected to security checks, evictions, random arrests, and occasional deportations. According to the latest Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR), the rate of Syrian refugees with legal residency continued to decline, with only 16 percent of individuals 15 years or older holding legal residency.[xxxv] Due to the lack of legal documentation, their mobility is significantly constrained, thereby limiting access to other services and rights such as health, work, and education.

Lebanon’s overlapping crises (political, economic, financial, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Beirut port blast) have led to a collapse in the standard of living and a devaluation of the Lebanese pound by nearly 90 percent against the U.S. dollar since 2019.[xxxvi] As a result, Lebanon now has one of the highest inflation rates in the world, with food prices rising by 1,000 percent, according to WFP.[xxxvii] This has exacerbated poverty among refugees and their hosts alike.

Some 90 percent of Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty, up from 55 percent just two years ago. Most refugee households do rely on international humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Nonetheless, in 2021, 94 percent of households ran short on food and were forced to resort to negative coping strategies.[xxxviii] All this is happening at a time when more than half the UNHCR financial requirements of $553.7 million for 2021 remained unfunded.[xxxix]

Most Syrians do not live in camps but in cities, towns, or spontaneously erected tented settlements. Many have ended up in impoverished host communities. More than 65 percent of registered refugees live in the Bekaa and northern Lebanon, historically marginalized areas.[xl] Most Syrian refugees live in overcrowded conditions. Often, several families share one apartment. In informal settlements, conditions are deplorable.

Due to the economic crisis, housing conditions for refugees have worsened. As a result, additional families started sharing housing units. Others have moved to informal settlements as they cannot afford rent. Since 2020, more than 10 percent of Syrian refugee households have been evicted or have faced the threat of eviction.[xli]

Syrians are subjected to a highly restrictive labor law that has pushed most into the informal sector. As a result, Syrian refugees are primarily employed in low-skilled jobs, including agriculture, construction, and services. The economic crisis has only exacerbated the situation. As resources and employment have become increasingly scarce, existing competition between refugees and host communities has worsened. The VASyR did show a small increase in employment rates from 26 percent in 2020 to 33 percent in 2021.[xlii] But this is likely due to easing measures related to COVID-19.

Even before the pandemic and the collapse of the economy, less than half of all Syrian children had access to formal education. However, the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon has already worsened bleak prospects for the education of Syrian children. The costs of education material and transportation and the cost of living have increasingly pushed Syrian families to stop sending their children to school. In 2021, the already low attendance rate for Syrian children between the ages of 6 and 14 dropped by 25 percent.[xliii]

Hardship and poverty have led most refugees to resort to negative coping strategies. These include child labor, child marriage, begging, and borrowing money. Refugees are also cutting down on health-related expenses. According to the vulnerability survey, 92 percent of surveyed households reported resorting to new debts, 75 percent purchased food on credit, 54 percent reduced health expenditures, 29 percent reduced education expenditures, 25 percent sold off goods and/or spent savings, and 7 percent withdrew children from school and/or sent their children to work.[xliv]

In Lebanon, Syrian refugees have died from COVID-19 at a rate more than four times the national average.[xlv] Yet, by December 2021, they had received only 3.5 percent of the total administered vaccines, despite accounting for nearly one-quarter of the population.[xlvi] Lebanon purportedly adopted an inclusive vaccination policy. However, limited mobility, insufficient doses, identification requirements, and skepticism towards the vaccine are among the many barriers that prevent higher vaccination rates.

VI.           Recommendations

For most Syrians, returning to Syria in the foreseeable future or third-country resettlement will not be viable options. Donors and host governments must recognize this reality and take meaningful measures to enhance self-sufficiency and inclusion. It is also increasingly apparent that for many if not most Syrians in countries like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, some kind of integration—and an end to exile—will be the most appropriate, realistic, and dignified solution. This must be accompanied by far more ambitious commitments to third country resettlement on the part of the United States and other resettlement countries. Even as governments and international organizations begin to consider these longer-term solutions, they should take several critical short- and medium-term measures.

  • Cease Deportations and Increase Monitoring of Returns: The United States should push Turkey and Lebanon to comply with international law and stop deporting Syrian refugees back to Syria. The UN Refugee Agency should be allowed to freely monitor removal centers to ensure that all returns to Syria are voluntary. The UN should also demand access and closely monitor the conditions of the limited number of refugees returning to Syrian voluntarily.
  • Support Education: The United States and other donors should support host countries’ efforts to enroll Syrian children in public schools by dedicating predictable multi-year funding to the education sector. However, refugee access to formal education will continue to suffer due to worsening economic conditions, language difficulties, and the rising cost of transportation and school supplies. Thus, the United States should support the efforts of aid agencies and local civil society to provide quality non-formal education inside the camps and informal settlements to fill gaps in the education sector.
  • Improve Conditions for Women Refugees: The United States and other donors should redouble efforts to improve conditions for women refugees, who remain a largely underserved population in all three regional host countries. Programs should address the unique challenges and the barriers that women currently face. These include a lack of childcare, transportation costs, gender-based violence (GBV), and cultural norms that oppose women’s work outside the home. In addition, vocational training should be driven by women’s own perspectives and wishes. Finally, the programs should help women find jobs that empower them as participants in the formal labor market and as members of society. 
  • Promote Labor Market Integration: Access to jobs in the formal labor market, including work permits, rights at work, and freedom of movement away from camps and settlements, will be essential to refugee integration and self-reliance. A joint multi-year research project by Refugees International and the Center for Global Development has conclusively demonstrated that labor market integration can be a shared win for refugees, donors, and host countries alike.[xlvii] Of course, the policies, tools, and outcomes will look different across regional host countries, but we know the strategy works. For their part, the United States, the World Bank, and other donors must continue to leverage their support for host countries to improve labor market integration. These efforts should build on progress made in Jordan and work to reverse recent backsliding in Turkey.
  • Accelerate Localization and Empower Civil Society: The United States should increase direct funding to local NGOs involved in the refugee response in all three host countries. The goal should be to allocate 25 percent of total U.S. funding over the next four years, in line with USAID’s 2021 worldwide commitment. The shift to localization is particularly urgent in Lebanon, where corruption and predatory behavior by elites and distrust of the central Government are major concerns. In addition, U.S. assistance should strengthen the role of local partners in the design, implementation, and decision-making of its programs.
  • Adopt a Holistic Approach in Lebanon: As this subcommittee was briefed last July, Lebanon’s economic collapse and political crisis are only deepening by the day. Moreover, the country is now in the grip of a significant humanitarian crisis. Therefore, the United States should seek to integrate its response to Syrian refugees within a comprehensive approach that addresses the broader humanitarian needs of host and other vulnerable communities across the country. This approach should focus on creating livelihood opportunities and partnerships with small entrepreneurs that would benefit those hit hardest by the devastating Lebanese crisis. 
  • Fund the UN regional refugee response plan: Over the past five years, the UN Refugee Agency has requested $5.5-6 billion annually to fund its Syrian Refugee Response and Resilience Plan (3RP) to support Syrian refugees and their host communities across the Middle East. However, last year, only 28 percent of the 3RP resource requirements were funded. For this year’s plan, zero funding has been received.[xlviii] This needs to change quickly. In addition to increasing its own commitments, the United States should mobilize other donors to close the gap. Gulf countries have a key role to play, especially in light of the increased revenue these countries are likely to accrue as a result of the impact of the war in Ukraine on global oil markets.
  • Address the situation in Rukban camp: The United States must step up and shoulder the responsibility of finding a long-term solution to the Rukban crisis while addressing short to mid-term needs. The United States provides Jordan an estimated $1.275 billion in aid annually under its five-year Memorandum of Understanding, which is set to expire in FY22. If Jordan and the United States plan to sign a new agreement, this is an important opportunity to address Jordan’s own economic instability while including Rukban into a comprehensive plan to support Jordan.
  • Increase U.S. Resettlement of Syrian Refugees: Over the course of the war in Syria, the United States has taken roughly 23,200 of the total number of 174,900 Syrian refugees who have been resettled.[xlix] This is a drop in the bucket when it comes to what is needed. Refugees International is deeply aware of the limitations in capacity and the overall stress level on the U.S. refugee resettlement system. However, the United States can and should commit to resettle at least 15,000 to 20,000 Syrians each year over the next four years. This would be possible within the regional allocations provided in the FY2022 PD.[l]


[i] Human Rights Watch, “Our Lives Are Like Death” Syrian Refugee Returns from Lebanon and Jordan, 20, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/10/20/our-lives-are-death/syrian-refugee-returns-lebanon-and-jordan,
[ii] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Sixth Regional Survey on Syrian Refugees’ Perceptions & Intentions on Return to Syria,” March 26, 2021, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/85739
[iii] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2022,” June 23, 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/protection/resettlement/60d320a64/projected-global-resettlement-needs-2022.html
[iv] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Resettlement Data Finder,” last updated January 31, 2022,  https://rsq.unhcr.org/en/#3EeB
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Naya Rush, “FY 2021 Refugee Resettlement Roundup,” Center for Immigration Studies, November 18, 2021, https://cis.org/Report/FY-2021-Refugee-Resettlement-Roundup
[vii] Kemal KIRIŞCI, “Revisiting and going beyond the EU-Turkey migration agreement of 2016: an opportunity for Greece to overcome being just “Europe’s aspis,” Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), April 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Policy-paper-64-Kirisci.pdf
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Max Hoffman and Alan Makovsky, “Northern Syria Security Dynamics and the Refugee Crisis,” Center for American Progress, May 26, 2021, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/northern-syria-security-dynamics-refugee-crisis/
[x] Asylum Information Database (AIDA), “Registration Under Temporary Protection,” last updated November 1, 2022, https://asylumineurope.org/reports/country/turkey/temporary-protection-regime/access-temporary-protection-and-registration/registration-under-temporary-protection/
[xi] Max Hoffman and Alan Makovsky, “Northern Syria Security Dynamics and the Refugee Crisis,” Center for American Progress, May 26, 2021, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/northern-syria-security-dynamics-refugee-crisis/
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Human Rights Watch, “Turkey: Syrians Being Deported to Danger,” October 24, 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/10/24/turkey-syrians-being-deported-danger
[xiv] Deutsche Welle, “Xenophobia flares up in Ankara as mob attacks Syrian shops,” InfoMigrants, August 13, 2021, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/34308/xenophobia-flares-up-in-ankara-as-mob-attacks-syrian-shops
[xv] Danish Refugee Council and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, “Syrian Refugees` Perception of the (Formal) Labour Market in South East Turkey,” August 9, 2021, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/88119
[xvi] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Turkey: Livelihoods,” last modified March 1, 2022, https://help.unhcr.org/turkey/information-for-syrians/livelihoods/
[xvii] Luis Pinedo Caro, “Syrian Refugees in the Turkish Labour Market,” International Labour Organization, February 9, 2022, https://www.ilo.org/ankara/publications/WCMS_738602/lang–en/index.htm
[xviii] Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, Work Permits of Foreigners, 2019, https://www.aile.gov.tr/media/63117/yabanciizin2019.pdf
[xix] Refugees International, “Her Stories: 11 Years of War in Syria,” Online Webinar, March 14, 2022, https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2022/3/14/her-stories-11-years-of-war-in-syria
[xx] Kemal KIRIŞCI, “Revisiting and going beyond the EU-Turkey migration agreement of 2016: an opportunity for Greece to overcome being just “Europe’s aspis,” Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), April 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Policy-paper-64-Kirisci.pdf
[xxi] European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, “The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN): Offering a lifeline to vulnerable refugees in Turkey,” https://ec.europa.eu/echo/emergency-social-safety-net-essn-offering-lifeline-vulnerable-refugees-turkey_en
[xxii] European Commission, “The EU Facility for Refugees In Turkey,” last updated January 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/system/files/2022-01/frit_factsheet_January%202022.pdf
[xxiii] Max Hoffman and Alan Makovsky, “Northern Syria Security Dynamics and the Refugee Crisis,” Center for American Progress, May 26, 2021, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/northern-syria-security-dynamics-refugee-crisis/
[xxiv] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Jordan: Economic Inclusion of Syrian Refugees Dashboard (June 2021),” Operations Data Portal, July 18, 2021, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/87833
[xxv] Izza Leghtas, “Out of Reach: Legal Work Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Jordan,” Refugees International, September 10, 2018, https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2018/9/10/out-of-reach-legal-work-still-inaccessible-to-refugees-in-jordan
[xxvi] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Jordan issues record number of work permits to Syrian refugees,” January 25, 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/1/61effaa54/jordan-issues-record-number-work-permits-syrian-refugees.html
[xxvii] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Jordan issues record number of work permits to Syrian refugees,” January 25, 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/1/61effaa54/jordan-issues-record-number-work-permits-syrian-refugees.html
[xxviii] World Food Programme, “ Funding crunch forces WFP to scale back food assistance to Syrian refugees in Jordan,” June 3, 2021, https://www.wfp.org/news/funding-crunch-forces-wfp-scale-back-food-assistance-syrian-refugees-jordan
[xxix] Ibid.
[xxx] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan (3RP) Regional Strategic Overview 2021-2022,” December 31, 2020, https://www.alnap.org/help-library/regional-refugee-resilience-plan-3rp-regional-strategic-overview-2021-2022
[xxxi] World Food Programme, “ Funding crunch forces WFP to scale back food assistance to Syrian refugees in Jordan,” June 3, 2021, https://www.wfp.org/news/funding-crunch-forces-wfp-scale-back-food-assistance-syrian-refugees-jordan
[xxxii] Izza Leghtas, “Out of Reach: Legal Work Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Jordan,” Refugees International, September 10, 2018, https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2018/9/10/out-of-reach-legal-work-still-inaccessible-to-refugees-in-jordan
[xxxiii] Ibid.
[xxxiv] Omer Karasapan, “Syrian refugees in Jordan: A decade and counting,” Brookings Institution, January 27, 2022, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2022/01/27/syrian-refugees-in-jordan-a-decade-and-counting/
[xxxv] UN Children’s Fund, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and World Food Programme, “2021 Vulnerability Assessment for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR),” January 25, 2022, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/90589
[xxxvi] “Lebanese pound back in freefall after brief recovery,” France24, October 13, 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20211013-lebanese-pound-back-in-freefall-after-brief-recovery
[xxxvii] World Food Programme Lebanon, Twitter Post, February 28, 2022, https://twitter.com/WFPLebanon/status/1498219348762284035?s=20&t=IP0kJb24FC3DAOZgPN6muQ
[xxxviii] UN Children’s Fund, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and World Food Programme, “2021 Vulnerability Assessment for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR),” January 25, 2022, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/90589
[xxxix] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Lebanon Funding Update,” October 26, 2021, https://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/fundingupdates/2021-10-26/Lebanon%20Funding%20Update%2026%20October%202021.pdf
[xl] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Syria Regional Refugee Response: Lebanon,” Operational Data Portal, last updated January 31, 2022, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/syria/location/71
[xli] UN Children’s Fund, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and World Food Programme, “2021 Vulnerability Assessment for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR),” January 25, 2022, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/90589
[xlii] Ibid.
[xliii] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “UN: Syrian refugees in Lebanon struggle to survive amid worst socioeconomic crisis in decades,” September 29, 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/press/2021/9/615430234/un-syrian-refugees-lebanon-struggle-survive-amid-worst-socioeconomic-crisis.html
[xliv] UN Children’s Fund, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and World Food Programme, “2021 Vulnerability Assessment for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR),” January 25, 2022, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/90589
[xlv] Timour Azhari, “Lebanon’s COVID-19 vaccine drive hit by row over MPs’ queue-jumping,” Thomas Reuters Foundation News, February 23, 2021, https://news.trust.org/item/20210223150529-d9fjo/
[xlvi] IMPACT by Central Inspection, “the First e-Governance platform in Lebanon,” last updated March 14, 2022, https://impact.cib.gov.lb/home
[xlvii] Refugees International, “Labor Market Access Program,” last updated December 20, 2021, https://www.refugeesinternational.org/labor-market-access-program
[xlviii] Humanitarian InSight, “Syria Refugee Response and Resilience Plan (3RP) 2022,” last updated March 14, 2022, https://hum-insight.info/plan/1072
[xlix] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Resettlement Data Finder,” last updated January 31, 2022, https://rsq.unhcr.org/en/#1uED
[l] U.S. Department of State, “Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2022,” September 20, 2021, https://www.state.gov/report-to-congress-on-proposed-refugee-admissions-for-fiscal-year-2022/