Jordan: Reflection on Hospitality in a Time of Crisis
Reflection on Hospitality in a Time of Crisis
En route from the airport to downtown Amman our driver, to my surprise, invited us out for tea. This was the first of many hospitable and generous acts I would see during my week in Jordan.
The generosity of Jordanians’ certainly runs deep; over the years they have taken in refugees from several neighbors including Palestine, Iraq and most recently Syria.
One local explained to us, particularly with regard to the Syrian crisis, that Jordanians want the “best for their brothers and want to take care of them”. He claimed that being hospitable is part of Jordanians’ nature and that the relationship between Jordanians and Syrians has never been closer.
While this might be the case there are growing tensions between local and refugee populations. This tension was most evident when we traveled to a Northern city in Jordan called Mafraq. Mafraq is a short 15 minute drive away from Zaatari refugee camp and 20 minutes from the Syrian border.
Those we spoke to highlighted that while several international organizations are helping to support Syrians, initially local communities played a key role in meeting refugees’ needs.
Communities like Mafraq have received little recognition from the international community for these efforts. More importantly locals have been financially strained while trying to support the new refugees and claim little foreign help is directed to Jordanians.
During conversation, a local to Mafraq said that incoming Syrian refugees often have greater purchasing power than the host communities they inhabit due to the support they receive from organizations like WFP and the UNHCR.
An informal policy, aimed at reducing this problem, has been introduced by the Jordanian government. Under this policy, 30% of funds coming in to Jordan for the refugee crisis should benefit Jordanians. As a number of organisations operating in Jordan have a mandate to assist refugees, this policy is designed to help these organisations justify spending money on vulnerable Jordanians, who are outside their target population. This policy also helps to shift the crisis response from a narrow focus on humanitarian relief to a broader focus that includes resilience and development, supporting the Jordanian Response Plan.
Ultimately the informal policy is a positive step but Jordanians’, particularly those in more impoverished Northern areas, believe their communities need greater recognition and support as the crisis continues to unfold.