Jordan has spent about $6.6 billion since the Syrian refugee crisis began in March 2011, a Jordanian government official said. The strain of supporting refugees has reportedly increased a budget deficit and pushed the kingdom deeper into debt, the Middle East Monitor reported Monday.
“Today we can see European countries struggling to deal with waves of asylum seekers although in one or two days Jordan receives the total number who’ve arrived in some European countries,” said Imad Fakhoury, Jordan’s minister of planning and international cooperation during a meeting with Finland’s minister of trade and development.
Fakhoury stressed that the crisis would grow more costly as it lingers on, unless the international community offered greater assistance. Jordan has taken in about 650,000 Syrian refugees since the war began, according to United Nations statistics. Yet government sources have said the total number of Syrians living unregistered in the country is actually much higher, and perhaps double the official statistic.
Aid organizations have struggled to meet the needs of refugees in Jordan. Last month, the World Food Program was forced to cut food aid for about 200,000 refugees due to financial shortfalls. The situation for some refugees has reportedly grown so desperate that they are considering returning home to war-torn Syria.
The Finnish official, Lenita Toivakka, said her government “will work to increase development assistance to Jordan to enable it to preserve its development gains and to continue to provide services to the Syrian refugees,” according to Middle East Monitor.
Jordan currently has a deficit of $2.5 billion dollars, according to the Jordan Times, though the deficit drops to nearly $970 million once foreign assistance is accounted for. Jordan had an unemployment rate of 33.7 percent as of 2013, the most recent statistic available from the World Bank. The country has few natural resources and has relied heavily on foreign loans and international aid.