Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the 22-month-old civil war in their country are straining Jordan's resources and will exact a "humongous" cost on the kingdom, a top Jordanian official said Tuesday.
"Dealing with the spillover from Syria is something that we don't see a near end in sight," said Jafar Hassan, Jordan's minister of planning and international cooperation, said at a meeting with journalists and analysts at the Jordanian Embassy in Washington. "It will be at a considerable cost to the budget, but also in terms of humanitarian cost and a security cost that is also very sizable."
"When we look at the size of the humanitarian problem and the cost of the humanitarian problem, we are looking at a really humongous cost," he said. "Jordan is in no way positioned to spend the resources that are needed for this simply because it does not have the resources."
Over the past month, an average of 2,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Jordan every day. There are already 340,000 Syrian refugees in the country, 55 percent of whom are children.
Almost all of the families are suffering from diseases and injuries that require immediate treatment and put a strain on health services. Thousands of Syrians have left refugee camps and moved into cities where they compete for jobs in a nation that has a 13 percent unemployment rate.
"Jordanian families have been very welcoming … This, of course, does not mean that the situation is not creating a burden, especially in the employment sector," said Mr. Hassan. "I am not saying the goodwill will run out, I am saying the resources are running out."
Syrian President Bashar Assad has shown no signs of stepping down or ending the civil war that the U.N. estimates has killed more than 60,000 people since it started in 2011.
The U.N. estimates that two million Syrians have been internally displaced by the war, more than 630,000 have fled their country and every day as many as 3,000 continue to flee.
Besides Jordan, these refugees are fleeing to Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.
At the current rate of influx there will be almost a million Syrian refugees in Jordan by the end of the year, said Mr. Hassan.
"For any country, this is a very significant burden," he added. Jordan has a population of nearly 7 million.
The population of the Zaatari refugee camp in the desert in northern Jordan is bigger than that of most Jordanian towns and cities.
Mr. Hassan said the international community must determine how to provide humanitarian aid to Syrians inside Syria to prevent them from fleeing their country.
A political solution to the crisis would not guarantee that the refugees will return to Syria, he said. "This is not something that will go away tomorrow or the next month or in six months."
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