An Uncertain Homecoming

The Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan that houses 80,000 Syrian refugees The Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan that houses 80,000 Syrian refugees © Save the Children 2019/Middle East Monitor

This is a presentation of “An Uncertain Homecoming: Views of Syrian Refugees in Jordan on Return, Justice, and Coexistence” released by the International Center for Transitional Justice in May 2019.

In May 2019, the International Center for Transitional Justice, or ICTJ, released a research report written by Cilina Nasser and Zeina Jallad Charpentier called An Uncertain Homecoming: Views of Syrian Refugees in Jordan on Return, Justice, and Coexistence”. The study aimed to address and document the hardships faced by Syrian refugees living in Jordan who have had their lives seriously impacted by conflict and displacement. Additionally, the ICTJ sought to increase awareness of the collective and individual experiences of Syrian refugees. This report was a continuation of a research project released in 2017 called Not Without Dignity: Views of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon on Displacement, Conditions of Return, and Coexistence and focused primarily on the experiences of Syrian refugees from Daraa, Homs, and Swayda.

In order to complete this study, researchers interviewed a total of 121 Syrian refugees of all ages ranging from 18 to 75 years. Of the 121 interviewed, 64 were men and 57 were women. Additionally, interviewees were of all faiths with the majority being Sunni Muslim, and six were Palestinian refugees from Syria. Interviewees were asked a series of questions focused on the themes of return, justice, and coexistence. Reporters retrieved qualitative data from these interviews which they note were conducted to minimize the presence of bias and to be sensitive to the trauma experienced by subjects. 

Jordan, one of the largest refugee host countries in the world as reported by the UN Refugee Agency or UNHCR, has almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees according to an estimation by the Jordanian government. This differs substantially from the 670,238 Syrian refugees officially registered by the UNHCR, likely due to many refugees choosing not to register and the inclusion of refugees who arrived during the 1980s and 1990s in the government count.  Most Syrian refugees entered Jordan between 2012 and 2013 due to intense political unrest and violence. As of February 2018, 80 percent of registered refugees who live in host communities are below the Jordanian poverty line. 

The report found that, regarding the topic of returning to Syria, most refugees were concerned with their safety and security. Specifically, refugees from Daraa stated that they feared the risk of retaliatory government measures, including arrest and detention, and that the damage to their homes from government shelling impacted their ability to return. On the topic of justice, refugees identified a lack of trust in the commitment to the accountability of their government and international organizations as an obstacle to achieving justice. According to the report, accountability and restoring or rebuilding property destroyed during the conflict were the main goals for reaching justice. Finally, on the topic of coexistence, the report found a wide disparity in views expressed based on where the refugees were from. For example, some Sunni interviewees from Bosra al-Sham in Daraa stated that all their relationships with Shi’a Syrians must end and blamed them for instigating violence. However, some refugees from this area believed that coexistence was a possibility. Similarly, in Homs, some refugees stated they would never be able to coexist with certain communities and preferred to resettle in a different country. 

The findings of this report culminated in a list of recommendations. Notably, they recommended the following: Jordan and host countries must not force refugees to return to Syria involuntarily; the international community and donors should provide funding to programs that support the basic needs of refugees in host countries; refugee needs and rights should be foundational to any policy framework created by the international community and the Syrian government; and the international community cannot allow for political settlements to grant impunity to those responsible for systematic crimes. Ultimately, this report highlighted the strength and resilience of Syrian refugees while revealing what issues are at the heart of their hesitations, fears, and hopes for returning to Syria. It emphasizes the important role that the Syrian government, host countries, and the international community have in finding a durable solution for these refugees.  

 

Original report available here: https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ_Report_SyrianRefugees_Jordan_Final.pdf

 

Author: Cecilia D’Arville; Editor: Shrabya Ghimire

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