Syrian refugees could threaten regional stability, NGO warns

More than 130,000 people who have fled the fighting in Syria are straining Jordanian and Lebanese resources, according to Refugees International

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A Washington-based NGO called on the world Monday to assist Syrian refugees, saying they are stretching the meager resources of Jordan and Lebanon and pose risks to their political stability.

Since the outset of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, Jordan has taken in more than 110,000 refugees, while Lebanon hosts 26,000, according to official figures. Many Jordanian households are hosting the refugees in their homes, giving them free food and shelter.

Both countries have hosted waves of Iraqi refugees from the last 10 years, and Palestinians from the last 60.

Refugees International warned in a written statement that the Syrian refugee crisis “may threaten the political stability of both Lebanon and Jordan, and the international community must scale-up humanitarian and development aid to keep both countries on a firm footing.”

With their “economies weak and their politics strained, neither country is well positioned to accept thousands of poor, vulnerable Syrians – and yet they must, and they have,” said the advocacy group.

Jordanian officials complain in private that the Syrian refugees are exhausting social and health care services and taxing the desert country’s sparse water resources. The officials say they especially fear severe water shortages during the dry summer season.

RI president Michel Gabaudan said considering the pressure they are under domestically, with high unemployment and a thinning social safety net, Lebanon and Jordan “have made real efforts to accommodate Syrian refugees.”

But he added that with thousands of refugees present, the two nations’ “social services are being stretched to the limit.”

“Unless the West and other donors step in to fill these gaps, their generosity could soon evaporate under domestic political and economic pressure,” he added.

He said that asking the families who are hosting refugees “to spend their own dwindling resources on refugees is untenable and could also spark conflict if aid agencies do not step in.”

Gabaudan is heading an RI team to Jordan to evaluate the regional response to Syrian displacement.

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