Presently, concerns regarding the involuntary repatriation of Syrian refugees in Jordan are on the rise. Although Jordan has never formally advocated for the forced return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, the discourse surrounding the issue has become increasingly intense. While the Jordanian government consistently emphasizes a voluntary and secure repatriation process, its normalization of relations with the Syrian regime has ignited fears among refugees of being forcibly returned against their will.
Dread of Deportation from Jordan
Mona Khalif, a refugee who has sought asylum in Jordan for a decade, openly shares her anxieties about returning to Syria. Khalif, aged 50, recounts the devastation she endured when her home in the Daraa Governorate was bombed, leading to the loss of her son, her husband’s debilitating injury, and the destruction of their residence. Speaking to the Syria TV website, she states, “It’s true that I am distant from my children, who are in Lebanon. In these past 10 years, I haven’t laid eyes on them. Reunification is my hope, but not within Syria’s current circumstances.”
Khalif maintains regular communication with relatives in Daraa, who vividly describe a life that has led her to prefer “death over returning to Syria.” She adds, “Instant death befalls people there, with no safety or sustenance. Returning to such a place is unthinkable. We’re acquainted with the fate that awaits us there, yet we also tremble at the prospect of coerced repatriation.”
Ibrahim al-Mahamid, who lost a hand during a severe bombardment of his home and tragically lost his cousins, expresses, “Syria lacks the elemental essentials for life—no electricity, no water, no employment. Why would we yearn to return? We’re the ones who built it.”
Jordan’s Position: Striking a Balance
The official stance of Jordan underscores the principles of a voluntary and secure repatriation process. However, the demarcation between this approach and a potential forced return appears blurred.
Specializing in Syrian affairs, Jordanian researcher Salah al-Malkawi remarks, “Throughout Jordan’s political history, there hasn’t been an instance of refugees being coerced back to their homeland, regardless of whether security and stability were restored. It seems improbable.” He further asserts, “Syria lacks the conducive environment to offer a dignified life to its refugees.”
Reluctance Among Syrians in Jordan to Return
In accordance with a recent comprehensive study commissioned by the United Nations, a mere 1.1% of Syrian refugees residing across four Arab nations express a desire to return to Syria within the forthcoming year. Concurrently, efforts intensify to establish conditions conducive to the voluntary and safe return of these refugees.
Conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) between January and February of 2023 in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, the study reveals that merely 1.1% of surveyed Syrian refugees anticipate returning within the next twelve months. This percentage is a decrease from 1.7% in 2022 and 2.4% in 2021.
An overwhelming 93.5% of respondents affirm their unwillingness to return to Syria within the following year—a slight increase from 92.8% in 2022. Notably, UNHCR currently refrains from actively advocating for their repatriation.
The study highlights that 97% of Syrian refugees in Jordan who participated in the survey have no intentions of returning to their homeland within the ensuing 12 months, while 2.4% remain undecided.
Regarding the overarching desire to return to Syria at any point, the cumulative percentage stands at 56.1%. Among the highest percentages of refugees rejecting a return within the upcoming year are found in Jordan, reaching 96.8%, compared to last year’s 94.2%. This compares to 95% in Egypt, 94% in Iraq, and 91% in Lebanon.
In Jordan, 65% of surveyed refugees express a general aspiration to return to Syria eventually—the most significant percentage, followed by Lebanon and Iraq. Notably, intentions to return within the next 12 months decreased from 2.4% last year to 0.8% this year, signifying the most substantial alteration in intent.
The decision-making process to return is predominantly influenced by factors encompassing safety, security, livelihood, employment, basic amenities, and housing in Syria, as evidenced by the insights of 2,984 participants in the survey.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.