95% of Jordanians say 'too many refugees in Jordan' amid economic strain, UN survey finds

95% of Jordanians say 'too many refugees in Jordan' amid economic strain, UN survey finds
Although sympathy for refugees remains high among Jordanians, a new survey published by the UN reveals 'negative indicator[s] as to where the opinion of Jordanians might be headed'.
3 min read
15 July, 2021
Zaatari refugee camp is located in north Jordan and was opened in 2012 [Getty]

Almost all Jordanians agreed with the statement "there are too many refugees in Jordan" in a survey published by the UN Refugee Agency on Wednesday. 

Ninety-five percent of participants - of which there were 3,216 Jordanians in total - said their country had too many refugees in the UNHCR’s “Perception of Refugees in Jordan Survey” conducted in May 2021. This is around an eight point rise compared to "Wave I" of the survey conducted in October 2020, which included the same questions. 

"Jordanians have been incredibly welcoming of refugees over the years, especially in the wake of the Syrian conflict," said Sarra Ghazi, Country Director for Jordan at the International Rescue Committee, to The New Arab.

"Yet the country's economic downturn, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, is beginning to take its toll." 

Although attitudes to refugees remained broadly sympathetic - with 63 percent saying that the public perceptions in Jordan towards migrants was positive - 74 percent responded that Jordan, a country with one of the highest refugee populations in the world, should focus on helping Jordanians, not refugees. 

"This gives a negative indicator as to where the opinion of Jordanians might be headed, especially considering the economic circumstances," said the UN report. 

A "noticeable decline”  was also documented in public sympathy towards economic migrants compared to refugees fleeing violence and prosecution in Jordan

While 56 percent of participants said they were "very sympathetic" to people coming to Jordan to escape conflict and persecution, only 32.4 percent said there were "very sympathetic" to migrants seeking better economic opportunities. The latter figure dropped around 6 points compared to the October 2020 survey. 

The financial impacts of the pandemic have been profound in Jordan, as the country’s economy contracted by 1.6 percent in 2020 and youth unemployment reached 50 percent at the end of last year, according to the World Bank. 

Ninety-five percent of Jordanians in the survey said Covid-19 impacted their economic circumstances negatively. 

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Jordan’s refugee population - which is over 750,000 - has been particularly hard-hit by the shutdown of the informal labour market in the country. 

Humanitarian worker Wagner Bragante, who lives in Jordan and works with refugees in the country, told to The New Arab: "Those who come after fleeing civil wars or persecution are seen with sympathy and mercy, while those who come here for work are seen as competitors". 

Bragante said he had not noticed a change in public perceptions towards refugees in Jordan, adding that what he saw among refugees was “a feeling of gratitude to the people and government of Jordan”. 

Opinions among Jordanians towards the government's approach to refugees remained largely favourable according to the survey, with 79 percent saying the approach was positive. 

However, 86 percent agreed with the statement "Jordan has done more than it needs to support refugees".