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Peter Millett

Ambassador to Libya, Tripoli

Part of UK in Jordan

1st May 2013

Syrian Refugees in Jordan

When people outside Jordan think about the Syrian refugees who have entered the country in the last 2 years, they usually think about the big camp in Za’atri. They have seen it on the news and from the numerous high-profile visitors who have been there. Headlines like “Record Numbers of Syrians Cross to Za’atri” encourage the perception that Za’atri is the biggest issue.

Jordan’s refugee crisis is not only in Za’atri.  It might be the biggest camp, housing over 100,000 people. But this is only about 20% of the Syrians who have sought shelter in Jordan. More than 350,000 are living in the community, taken in by Jordanian families or seeking rented accommodation in towns like Mafraq, Ramtha and Irbid.

It is often said that Jordanian hospitality and generosity is world-famous. Or that Jordan has become used to waves of refugees. Maybe so, but that doesn’t make coping with this influx of people any easier, especially at a time when the country is facing many economic problems. And the numbers are relentless, mostly women and children, fleeing the violence and brutality of a civil war and seeking shelter, food and the dignity of being able to look after their family.

All refugees hope to go home. And the world needs to support that hope. But the world also has to as to help and support Jordanian communities to deal with the impact of Syrians living in the community.  The burden on schools, hospitals, municipalities, water supplies and the environment is dramatic.

Last week the UK’s Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt MP visited the north of Jordan. We did not go to Za’atri but concentrated on Jaber, Mafraq and Irbid. In Jaber we saw a water pumping station installed by UNICEF and Mercy Corps with UK funding which increases the water supply to Mafraq. This project benefits all the people living in Mafraq, both Syrian and Jordanian.

We also had a meeting at the Irbid Chamber of Industry with MPs, community leaders and business people.  They described the impact of the Syrian refugees, for example the shortage of  jobs, the increase in rents and the prospect of a hot summer with a shortage of water.   The Minister’s aim was to see for himself, as a politician, how local communities are coping and to explore how we can help.

The United Nations and international NGOs are already active in these towns and communities, helping to support the refugees, but also carrying out improvements that benefit Jordanians as well: to the water supply, to schools and to hospitals.

For example, we donated a number of vehicles for  water distribution, rubbish collection and a JCB digger to the Mafraq water authority to improve the services they offer to all citizens. And the clinic we support in Ramtha provides better primary healthcare to Jordanians as well as Syrians.

This work will have to continue. Unfortunately there is no early end in sight to the crisis in Syria.  The international community has an obligation to provide financial support to help Jordan deal with the large numbers of Syrians living both in the camps AND in the community.  The UK is committed to continuing to provide this support.

1 comment on “Syrian Refugees in Jordan

  1. Dear Peter , thanks a lot for your interesting report. Interesting AND important is your – to me – most notable sentence : “…unfortunately there is no early end in sight to the crisis in Syria….”. For if you ´re thinking logical you can also add : If people outside Jordan do always associate the Syrian refugees ONLY with the huge Camp Za ´atri and believe that all these unhappy Syrian people are “safe” there – they really should get better informed about this above mentioned “K-Sentence” of you. Than they will also better understand , why the UK ´s Minister for the Middle East , Mr. Alistair Burt PM and yourself visited NOT Za ´atri but North – Jordan and camps / Help-Installations like Jaber , Mafraq or Irbid. I do strongly guess , that one of your intentions have been to DRAW MUCH MORE ATTENTION to the fact that Jordan ´s refugee crisis is not only (limited !) in Za ´atri. In fact , the entire State of Jordan is suffering because of this described impact of the Syrian refugees . I.e.: Shortage of jobs or the increase in rents. According to your lines it ´s “Dramatic”. That ´s another reason why all those people outside the Jordanian/Syrian area would surely support both nations or Mercy Corps , UNICEF etc. much stronger if they would knew the full truth , the huge dimension of this drama and human – made – disaster. Esp. , that it will last longer. Once convinced for better informed they will no longer think ONLY about Za ´atri in re. of the refugee-crisis. Actually , I do hope , they will think within this context about the entire area and all of the problems there. Stuttgart born poet Friedrich Schiller once wrote : ” Erkenne dein Umfeld dann erkennst du das gesamte Problem und lösst es..” “…learning the facts is like realizing the complete problems and the way of how to solve them…”.

    Best wishes , Ingo-Steven Wais, Stuttgart/Cardiff

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About Peter Millett

Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as Ambassador to Libya. Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015. He was High Commissioner to…

Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as
Ambassador to Libya.
Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015.
He was High Commissioner to Cyprus from 2005 – 2010.
He was Director of Security in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
from 2002-2005, dealing with all aspects of security for British
diplomatic missions overseas.
From 1997-2001 he served as Deputy Head of Mission in Athens.
From 1993-96 Mr Millett was Head of Personnel Policy in the FCO.
From 1989-93 he held the post of First Secretary (Energy) in the UK
Representative Office to the European Union in Brussels, representing
the UK on all energy and nuclear issues.
From 1981-1985 he served as Second Secretary (Political) in Doha.
Peter was born in 1955 in London.  He is married to June Millett and
has three daughters, born in 1984, 1987 and 1991.  
His interests include his family, tennis and travel.