Refugees and the Arab Spring in Jordan

Published in Sharnoff’s Global Views.

While Jordan appears stable and has consistently overcome challenges to the throne since independence in 1946, Arab Spring protests and the influx of more than half a million Syrian refugees pose new concerns for the Hashemite Kingdom.

The protests in Jordan which began in 2011 were against price hikes and inflation. Jordanians also demanded limitations on King Abdullah’s powers including transforming the monarchy from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy (like in the UK). Rather than being appointed by the King, Jordanians want their prime minister elected by the people.

The King has attempted to ease the situation by changing prime ministers. Jordan has gone through six different premiers in just five years. The government says this represents Jordan’s commitment to change and reform but critics say it is just window dressing because the King maintains real power.

Refugees in Jordan

The Syrian Civil War, which began in March 2011 and has resulted in the killing of at least 100,000 Syrians, has created a humanitarian disaster in Jordan. Jordan now hosts more than half a million Syrian refugees which account for 10% of the population. Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh recently told Al Jazeera that if currents trends persist, refugees could make up 40% by mid-2014.

The Za’atri refugee camp in northern Jordan is the largest camp with about 130,000 refugees. However this number is increasing each day and is now Jordan’s fourth largest city. There’s also the Mrajeeb al-Fhood refugee camp which hosts about 4,600 Syrian refugees

On top of all this there is an estimated 1.9 million UN registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan. There may be as many as 500,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan, although only 32,000 are registered.

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