Join UNHCR and make a difference

UNHCR is looking for candidates to fill a number of positions which are targeted at experienced professionals in various functional areas.

Please visit UNHCR’s webpage for details on available vacancies and on how to apply. The deadline is 26 September 2016.





Transformation of Communal Kitchens – Zaatari Camp






By Waed Shukri Shawamreh, Zaatari Camp

Zaatari Camp – 20 June 2016 – Youth volunteers from Zaatari Camp have concluded the renovation of twelve former communal kitchens as part of a community led initiative to adapt the un-used facilities for use in a range of community activities.

The volunteers, who were provided with technical support and guidance by UNHCR, its partners, and professional artists residing in the Camp over the last three months, took a lead role in consultations with the community on the future use of the facilities which will be solely managed by refugee themselves.




Reflecting upon his involvement in the initiative, Ismail Hariri, a well-known community artist highlighted: “It’s great to have been able to support youth who are working on this project. The artwork that we have been producing together here is of great value to the community making the neighbourhood a colourful and attractive place to live. “

Hovig Etyemezian, Zaatari Camp Manager noted: “The innovation and creatively shown by the youth volunteers is a wonderful example of how the community continues to prioritize and respond to their own needs. UNHCR and its partners in Zaatari continue to champion the important of placing refugees at the heart of our collective efforts, promoting self-reliance and resilience amongst the camp’s residents.”


In Zaatari, the refugee community are playing an increasing prominent role in refining their own needs and coordinating community based services, with the administrative support of humanitarian partners supporting community based activities in the Camp.

Following the transition from communal to household level cooking facilities, shared kitchen spaces that served the needs of refugee families during the early life of the camp have been either demolished, or rehabilitated to support the communities priority needs. The new community facilities will now host community gatherings; a platform for engagement between the humanitarian community and camp population, together with training and recreational activities.





Solaf’s best kick


When Solaf passed a group of kids one morning running around in strange white robes faatened with colorful belts, she decided to follow her curiosity. She had just arrived at Azraq camp a couple of days before and the inquisitive 9 year-old simply wanted to make friends that “seemed to be fun” and to find out what they people in white were up to.

The group led Solaf to a sports ground built a year earlier thanks to International Olympic Committee support. “When I saw the movements the kids were doing, I knew that was something I wanted to learn”, explains Solaf with her black eyes wide open. At that time more than 50 boys and only two girls were part of the training. She decided to join them. “I love jumping and breaking wooden boards”, she clarifies while standing up to do a little show.


Ruwyda had no idea about her daughter’s new hobby. “Solaf used to disappear, but I thought she was outside, just playing with her friends”, she confesses. “One day Solaf arrived home and started doing all these weird movements, jumping up and down on my walking aid, so I asked her what on earth she was doing”. Solaf announced to her family that she was taking taekwondo classes. “My daughter had never seen this sport before, not even on TV”, mutters Ruwyda. “The only thing she remembers from her childhood is airstrikes and violence”.


Solaf speaks loud, clear and with a confidence not common for a girl of her age. Her words were the ones putting the family in trouble when the clashes started in Dara’a, her hometown. Ahmad, Solaf’s father, remembers with tears in his eyes: “During a demonstration, she spoke to a camera while holding a rocket. This is how you treat the children of Syria?, she said. She was just 5 years old, but her message was strong. Then the persecution started. They wanted her”. The family tried to hide but soon decided to leave Syria to protect what they describe as their “treasure”.

Solaf does not remember much of that day but her strength flows out of her mouth: “If someone hassles me or tries to harass me, I need to learn how to defend myself. My brother won’t be always around to protect me, maybe he is at the school or at work… I need to be independent”.


Ruwyda cannot stop smiling at her daughter’s movements. “Solaf is a multitalented girl and we are so proud that now she is free to achieve anything she wants in life”, she explains. But in the end, she is just a kid and taekwondo has become the best excuse to fight with her older brother: “I am training myself, mum”, she says quickly excusing herself.

Restless Solaf now has enrolled into football and volleyball training. She is good at sports but her finest kick is her mind: “Can you imagine ants living in the Artic?”, challenges Solaf. “These questions are her best punch!”


Major Progress in Camp Security thanks to EU Contribution

As we approach the end of 2015, it’s important to recognize some of the major improvements and progress made in these past months, and years. In this case – security.
In 2013, the security situation in Zaatari was tense, but with a huge contribution from the European Union EUR12 million under the Instrument for Stability, UNHCR was able to address the safety and security needs of Syrian Refugees in Za’atari, and following on in Azraq.

1.EU_2.JPG “Joint Operations Centres have been established in both Zaatari and Azraq Camp. Photo: UNHCR/M Hawari)

Joint Operations Centres have been established in both Zaatari and Azraq Camp. Photo: UNHCR/M Hawari)

The funding enabled UNHCR to extend its field presence, build the capacity of the Jordanian authorities, SRAD, in the camps both in terms of staff numbers, capacity to improve security measures and physical presence in the camps and establish a Joint Operations Center in both camps that is manned 24/7 and allows organisations and refugees to contact the SRAD or Civil Defense at any time.

In Zaatari the security situation has dramatically improved within 6 months after the EU project started, with the number of incidents dropping to a third.

Zaatari General “Zaatari Camp is currently home to 80,000 Syrian refugees. UNHCR/J Kohler”

Zaatari Camp is currently home to 80,000 Syrian refugees. UNHCR/J Kohler”

The increased presence of security personnel has improved refugees’ sense of security and there are fewer reports of refugees leaving the camp for fear of insecurity. A UNHCR safety audit shows a dramatic improvement in the feeling of security by refugees. While in 2013, 64% of interviewed refugees reported feeling unsafe, in 2014 75% of female and 87% of male refugees interviewed felt safe living in and moving around the camp.

Dialogue has progressively replaced confrontation and sometimes violent interaction with humanitarian and security personnel: intimidation of humanitarian staff has decreased by 83%.

In Azraq refugee camp, where the EU funded project was operational the first day the camp opened, there has not been any major security problems to date.

“Azraq Camp. Photo: UNHCR/M Hawari”

Azraq Camp. Photo: UNHCR/M Hawari”

On behalf of UNHCR, SRAD and the refugees we serve, thank you to the European Union as we approach the close of this project.


Japan – Continuing Support for Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Since 2012, Japan has been one of UNHCR’s main donors with a combined contribution of $31.4m in support of 629,000 Syrian women, men, boys and girls in Jordan. Underpinning the longstanding support to refugees operations globally, the contribution to the Jordan operation has saved the lives of thousands of people through providing access to health care, financial assistance, winter support and core relief items for those who arrived with little more than the clothes they are wearing.


Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan, Fumio Kishida meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, in Zaatari Refugee Camp. Photo: UNHCR/J Kohler

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan, Fumio Kishida meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, in Zaatari Refugee Camp. Photo: UNHCR/J Kohler

2015 in particular has been an incredibly tough year for Syrians families in Jordan, with an assessment carried out which revealed that 86% of Syrian refugees sheltered outside of camps are living under the Jordanian poverty line. That means families are surviving on less than $3.20 a day. As a consequence, we know that 80% of those families are using crisis or emergency coping strategies just to survive, including skipping meals, unable to send their children to school, and even relying on their children to work in difficult conditions. The impact on families is enormous, and a far cry from the lives they fled in search of safety once war took hold.


In 2015 alone, the people of Japan’s generosity has continued to help those most vulnerable families with US$2.7m to cash-based assistance and US$3.7m to health care for Syrian refugees in Jordan, making it one of the biggest donors to our operation.  UNHCR Representative, Andrew Harper, is proud of the impact of the cash programme, “the financial support to families is ever more critical as winter closes in and temperatures drop to freezing overnight. The UNHCR system focuses not only on delivering assistance with dignity, but with efficiency, with overhead costs reduced to 0.58% and using iris scan software in a world first in refugee programming.”


Nami Asaka, the head of the UNHCR office in Irbid, the second city in Jordan and temporary home to 142,000 Syrians has witnessed this support first hand both at work and as Japanese national, ‘though geographically located far away, Japan is receiving asylum seekers from Syria and also has the responsibility as part of the international community to provide humanitarian support to those in need’.  Without the support, many Syrians would face stark decisions. Sheika, a Syrian mother alone in Jordan with her son, depends on the UNHCR financial assistance which provides $70 per month to cover rent, ‘without it, I would have to return to Syria.’

UNHCR protection staff meeting with refugees in Zaatari Refugee Camp. Photo: UNHCR/C Herwig

UNHCR protection staff meeting with refugees in Zaatari Refugee Camp. Photo: UNHCR/C Herwig


UNHCR is grateful to the people of Japan for the generous contribution since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. This has allowed UNHCR to maintain support to Syrians, including for registration, protection, shelter and infrastructure, non-food items, recreation activities and educational courses and winterization.



UNHCR study shows rapid deterioration in living conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres says large numbers of Syrian refugees are sliding into abject poverty, and at an alarming rate, due to the magnitude of the crisis and insufficient support from the international community.

Jordan / Syrian Refugees / Rimas, 2, looks out after her father in the Amman darkness.  Her father works selling coffee and tea in the streets illegally.  Only because of this work are they able to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads. / UNHCR / J. Kohler / August 2014

Jordan / Syrian Refugees / Rimas, 2, looks out after her father in the Amman darkness. Her father works selling coffee and tea in the streets illegally. Only because of this work are they able to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads. / UNHCR / J. Kohler / August 2014

He made the statement at the launch of a new UNHCR study, Living in the Shadows, which reveals evidence of a deepening humanitarian crisis. High Commissioner Guterres is on a two-day visit to Jordan, where he will meet refugees profiled in the study in Amman and others at the Za’atari refugee camp.

“I am here to express my solidarity with Syrian refugees, as the impact of snowstorm Huda is still tangible and posing an even greater strain on their already dire living conditions.” Guterres is also meeting with Jordanian officials and with donors to coordinate efforts to improve living conditions for Syrian refugees and support the communities hosting them.

Conducted by UNHCR and International Relief and Development (IRD) the study is based on data from home visits with almost 150,000 Syrian refugees living outside of camps in Jordan in 2014.

According to the study, two-thirds of refugees across Jordan are now living below the national poverty line, and one in six Syrian refugee households is in abject poverty, with less than $40 per person per month to make ends meet.

Almost half of the households researchers visited had no heating, a quarter had unreliable electricity, and 20 per cent had no functioning toilet. Rental costs accounted for more than half of household expenditures, and refugee families were increasingly being forced to share accommodations with others to reduce costs.

“Unless the international community increases its support to refugees, families will opt for ever more drastic coping strategies,” Guterres said. “More children will drop out of school to work and more women will be at risk of exploitation, including survival sex.”

As the Syrian conflict approaches its fifth year, many refugees are becoming increasingly dependent on assistance. Jordan’s resources and infrastructure, too, have been stretched to the limit.

In an effort to address this critical situation, UNHCR is providing monthly cash assistance to 21,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian families, or 14 per cent of the Syrian refugee population living outside camps. As of the end of 2014, over 10,000 additional Syrian refugee households have been identified as eligible for such assistance but, due to lack of funds, cannot be provided with support.

Overall, the report‘s findings make it clear that any further reductions in the current levels of support will have immediate and serious consequences for Syrian refugees in Jordan. The situation is particularly worrying for the most vulnerable populations, such as female-headed households and elderly refugees.

Guterres emphasized that this crisis can be mitigated if the international community steps up efforts to alleviate the suffering of the refugees. He praised the efforts of the Jordanian authorities, UNHCR and its partners to address the urgent needs of refugees during last week’s heavy snowstorm.

In total, Jordan has a registered Syrian refugee population of 620,000, some 84 per cent of whom live outside camps.

“This represents a dramatic pressure in the economy and the society of the country not to mention the terrible security impact of the Syria crisis in itself,” Guterres said.

“The generosity of the Jordanian people and the Government needs to be matched by massive support from the international community – support for the refugees themselves and for the local populations hosting them, but also structural and budgetary support to the Jordanian Government for education, health, water and sanitation and electricity to enable it to cope with this enormous challenge.”


First Arrivals at Azraq Camp

Jordan formally opens Azraq refugee camp, for Syrian refugees, in the desert east of the capital, Amman. UNHCR will help to run the camp, which has room for more than 100,000 refugees and was built to ease pressure on the Za’atri camp.



Amani Poster

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Child Protection and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Sub-Working Groups launched an inter-agency child protection and SGBV awareness-raising campaign called “Amani” (which means “my safety” in Arabic). The overall campaign message is “Our sense of safety is everyone’s responsibility”.
The campaign is based on key inter-agency messages for communities, children and parents, on how to better protect children and adults from harm and different kinds of violence. These messages were developed by the Child Protection and SGBV Sub-Working groups, in collaboration with women, girls, boys and men in Zaatari camp and in urban settings, while drawing from best practices and examples from other contexts. The revision of the messages and the ongoing development of associated tools has been led by UNHCR, Save the Children International, IRC, UNFPA and UNICEF within the framework of the Inter-Agency “Strengthening SGBV and Child Protection Services andSystems Project”.
The overall message of the campaign is: “Let’s work together to make our communities safer. Everyone has a role to play in keeping girls, boys, women, and men safe.” The key protection issues addressed in the Amani campaign are:

1. Prevent violence and stay safe
2. Response for survivors of violence
3. Early Marriage
4. Psychosocial support
5. Disabilities
6. Child Labour
7. Birth registration
8. Separation
9. Humanitarian aid is free
10. Respect for diversity/discrimination

The Amani campaign consists of a series of images for each key message featuring a family of five – mother, father, 2 sisters and a brother, including an adolescent girl called “Amani”. Inter-agency tools based on these messages are currently under development, including animated videos about each subject, and brochures for outreach workers and facilitators’ guides for group activities on the messages. The campaign will also produce scarves, t-shirts, notebooks, balls, colouring and story books, etc. Each organisation will use these tools in their activities with community members in urban areas and camps to facilitate discussion, debate and action to better protect boys, girls, women and men from violence and other kinds of harm. Organisations will display these posters in their community, conduct individual and group discussions and community meetings around the key issues, screen the films and distribute the campaign products during their activities. They will encourage refugees and Jordanians to join in the campaign and arrange activities within their own communities to raise awareness of how to stay safe, and what to do if you or someone you know experiences violence, abuse or exploitation.



Home Visits Report

hommevisitenquetesmallUNHCR Jordan in cooperation with IRD has conducted over 92,000 home visits in Jordan in 2012 and 2013 to assess the needs of Syrian refugees living outside the camps.

See the outcome of the report here:



Malala Yousafzai in Zaatari Camp

Malala Yousafzai came to the Zaatari Refugee Camp with a message: children here want a future….they have dreams and need schools.


Malala Visits Jordan/Syria Border

Teenage activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai visits the Jordanian border crossing at Hadalat where hundreds of Syrian refugees cross each day. The number of Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan has increased in recent days due to intensified fighting in their villages.


Filling the Information Vacuum for Syrian Refugees

A Syrian refugee pauses to view a program on a screen provided as part of the BBC Media Action initiative at UNHCR's Khalda registration centre.

A Syrian refugee pauses to view the program on a screen provided as part of the BBC Media Action initiative at UNHCR’s Khalda registration centre. UNHCR/J.Kohler

When Syrian refugees have made their hazardous journey after being forced from their homes and familiar settings, their ordeal is not necessarily over when they reach security in Jordan. While safe, many risk exploitation and may even be charged for free services like food or shelter, taken advantage of as vulnerable refugees.

Many refugees feel trapped and voiceless and lack the means to understand and improve their situation. This is the situation UNHCR Jordan is tackling through its mass information initiatives. Refugees need proper actionable information that can guide good decisions: where to turn for help, how to avoid danger and combat fraud.

“Every refugee has a right to know. Communication with refugees is crucial. As a refugee, you need to understand what takes place around you, how to navigate. And you need to be able to voice your concerns”, says Andrew Harper, Head of UNHCR Jordan. “Recently at the border, a small child was walking up to me asking ‘can I go to school in Jordan?’ Information is key to manage your own situation.”

One of the most promising steps to improving refugee’s access to information and communication channels is a pilot being carried out by BBC Media Action in Zaatri camp and in refugee registration centres in Khalda and Irbid.

Refugees waiting at the UNHCR Khalda registration center in Amman, Jordan look to screens deployed as a part of the BBC Media Action mass information pilot project. UNHCR/J.Kohler

Refugees waiting at the UNHCR Khalda registration center in Amman, Jordan look to screens deployed as a part of the BBC Media Action mass information pilot project. UNHCR/J.Kohler

The BBC Media Action pilot uses drama, documentary and animation as well as info graphics to relay important messages for refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.  The messages showcase topics such as what registering as a refugee means, health and education issues, and provide practical tips. The video is shown on large screens and sound systems in selected areas where refugees gather.

The pilot project uses high quality video recordings that not only target illiteracy but use the preferred choice of media of most Syrians, namely TV. UNHCR is launching a range of refugee communication activities under the banner “Talking with Refugees”.

The BBC pilot project is funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).

Visit this link to learn more and view the videos.

By Peter-Bastian Halberg, Senior Mass Communication Expert, UNHCR Jordan


UNHCR in massive sorting effort to return ID papers to Syrian refugees

A UNHCR staff member looks for documents in one of the coded envelopes at the Raba'a al-Sarhan registration facility in Jordan.

A UNHCR staff member looks for documents in one of the coded envelopes at the Raba’a al-Sarhan registration facility in Jordan.

Working around the clock, UNHCR staff in Jordan have been sorting through hundreds of thousands of precious, sometimes damaged, documents since July. Their goal: to return the papers to their Syrian owners, who handed over the documents on fleeing their battered homeland.

For nearly a year, the identity papers of refugees were taken as they entered northern Jordan and before they were transported to nearby Za’atri camp. In return, the new arrivals were provided with pink receipts for their documents.

By early 2013, as the conflict in Syria intensified and the trickle of arrivals turned into a flood, existing registration and filing systems were overwhelmed. As many of the Syrians had lost their identify papers, the Jordanian border authorities started accepting any paperwork offered by the desperate refugees, including passports, driving permits or family books. Storage of the growing piles of documentation became more difficult.

Finding the documents became an issue when refugees came forward and asked for their papers because they wanted to leave the camp for one reason or another. So, in July this year, UNHCR and the government agreed to work together to ensure that all refugees could have their documents back.

The challenge was to sort through the growing mountain of boxes and enter every document into a database. A joint project was established to organise and file the personal documents that had been stored in a dedicated facility at the new Raba’a al-Sarhan reception centre, which is located about 6 miles from the border.

The laborious work is conducted around-the-clock by about 50 UNHCR staff members working in shifts alongside Jordanian officials. It’s a boring task, but rewarding. “The importance of an identity document for a refugee who has lost everything cannot be underestimated,” says Andrew Harper, head of UNHCR’s operation in Jordan. “You can see the immense relief on their faces when their documents are returned,” the Australian adds.

The hard work is paying off: By early October almost 180,000 documents belonging to members of more than 76,000 families had been sorted, scanned and entered into a secure database. The originals are stored in specially coded envelopes and UNHCR has started the massive task of returning them to their owners in camps or in the urban areas where most have found shelter.

“It’s been very hard work” says UNHCR Senior Registration Assistant Alaa Mahmoud Amoush, who is one of the team leaders for this project and has been involved in the gargantuan sorting effort since day one.

“Scanning all the paperwork and storing it in envelopes labelled with unique computer-readable bar codes ensures it can be easily searched,” Amoush explains. “But I have lost five kilogrammes since it started in July as we have been working around-the-clock, even during Ramadan [from July 9-August 7] when we had to work in the heat all day long without water or food.”

After this week’s Eid al-Adha holidays, UNHCR plans to invite refugees in Za’atri to collect their paperwork and to launch a long-scheduled re-registration and verification of the camp’s population. This will give UNHCR and its partner agencies a precise picture of the camp’s population and needs, which will make it easier to plan delivery of services to residents.

The significant progress UNHCR’s teams have made in recent months sorting through the documents would not have been possible without the support of the Jordanian authorities, who have provided containers for offices, equipment and other logistical assistance.

Later this year, UNHCR and the government of Jordan plan to move most of the daily registration activities from Za’atri to the Raba’a al-Sarhan reception facility. When that occurs, all refugees crossing the border will be registered before they are moved to Za’atri or other refugee camps.

Built with funding from the European Commission, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and other donors, the Raba’a al-Sarhan site will double UNHCR’s existing registration capacity in the region, where many people cross from southern Syria. New arrivals will be medically screened, vaccinated, registered and issued with cards that provide access to education and World Food Programme rations.

“The Raba’a al-Sarhan registration site is yet another component of the contingency planning measures we have put in place in case large numbers of Syrian refugees suddenly cross the border into Jordan,” UNHCR’s Harper says. “Along with other measures, such as the establishment of a new contingency camp site in Azraq that can take up to 130,000 people, the UN refugee agency and its partners are demonstrating to the government of Jordan that we will stand by them in helping the country to cope with this massive refugee influx.”


Festive but Subdued – Eid al-Adha in Zaatari

Girls, dressed up for Eid-al Adha taking a stroll in Zaatari Camp

Girls, dressed up for Eid-al Adha taking a stroll in Zaatari Camp

The Camp is quiet. Except for UNHCR essential staff, most humanitarian workers in the camp are off duty for two days to join the rest of the country celebrating Eid al-Adha, the most important Muslim holiday of the year. Marking the end of hajj and commemorating prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismael, this is the time when markets are full of delicacies, families flock to the malls and long traffic jams slow down the hustle and bustle in Amman. Post-offices, schools and government offices are closed. This is the time, when Jordanians cultivate extended family ties, children receive gifts, and sheep are sacrificed to distribute meat among family, neighbors, the poor and needy. It is a time of giving and sharing.

For some this is the second Eid al-Adha in the camp and for some, their very first day.  316 new arrivals from the previous night are registered this morning, most of them from Homs. Ihab Shaban, UNHCR’s Community Services Associate Officer, is greeting everyone in the spacious, cool tent. A kind smile on his face, he quickly assesses whether vulnerable cases, injured refugees and elderly need instant attention.  Newly arrived families already received their mats and blankets and are resting from their arduous journey.  Ihab notices an elderly woman in her seventies, sitting on the floor. Bewildered and trembling from exhaustion she whispers: “It is Eid, and I am here….here”. She then catches herself and falls silent. Self-conscious about not expressing her relief and gratitude to have arrived safely, she is distraught at not being home for Eid.

In the shaded registration area, two teenage sisters and their four brothers, 16 – 25 years old, are patiently waiting for their turn. They arrived without their parents who needed to stay behind to sell all their sheep for Eid. As soon as business affairs are settled, they will join  –  that is the plan. The oldest boy is now in charge of the family.

Toy Store in Zaatari Camp

Toy Store in Zaatari Camp

There are no signs of sheep being slaughtered. Refugees cannot afford to buy a locally raised sheep for 250 – 300 JOD. However, family members and friends are arriving at the gate, carrying cooked food in big pots and bringing in special supplies which are swiftly picked up in wheelbarrows by young boys, kicking up dust as they push their precious cargo to its destination.  While supermarkets are open and the tented mosque is currently empty after this morning’s early and long call for prayer, young girls are eagerly admiring the colorful display of toys, dolls, and other trinkets made in China. Once they have inspected the first shop, they walk hand in hand to the next – one never knows what the next stall has in store. Clutching a crumpled 1 JOD note in their hands, a cherished present for Eid, tiaras in their hair and glimmer flower tattoos on their cheeks, they look beautiful and are excited about the day. Young boys pass by, furtively shooting bibi-gun pellets and relishing dripping ice-cream cones.

During a walk through the camp to verify rumors of unlicensed water shops having been closed down by the police, the UNHCR team passes three young men enjoying a brief hushed dance, arms around each other, synchronizing their steps. They chuckle, then losen their embrace, as more people are starting to watch.

The playground in the child-friendly spaces is teeming with laughing and squealing children, boys and girls. Two young guards are watching over them, ready to intervene in case there is a row over who gets to go next on the swing and protecting the space. Expecting some kind of treat for Eid, children happily share that their wishes have been granted by parents and relatives. Popping balloons and frozen syrup slush in their sticky hands, they seem joyful. Nine year old Hannah proudly pulls out a 1 JOD note which she intends to save. Their biggest wish is to spend the next Eid al-Adha at home, joined by all family members, just the way it used to be. They unanimously confess they would trade being back home for any sweets and gifts in the world.

   Frauke Riller, External Relations


UNHCR slashes waiting time, clears backlog of Syrian registrations in Jordan

UNHCR staff register Syrian refugees in Irbid.

UNHCR staff register Syrian refugees in Irbid.



IRBID, Jordan, October 3 (UNHCR) – The time that Syrians need to register as refugees in Jordan has been slashed from up to eight months to zero after the UN refugee agency rolled out new technology, added staff and expanded its facilities to eliminate the backlog.

A year ago when a Syrian refugee approached UNHCR’s registration centres in Jordan’s urban areas like Irbid, about 20 kilometres from the Syrian border, refugees often had to wait up to 12 months for an appointment.

Earlier this year, when sometimes more than 2,000 Syrian refugees flooded into Jordan daily, the number awaiting registration was stretching the UN refugee agency’s capacity to the limits, requiring staff to work multiple shifts every day while taxing the patience of exhausted refugees.

In response, UNHCR prioritized registration systems and staffing needs to address the unacceptable delays. But by July 2013, there were still more than 60,000 refugees waiting to be registered.

Thanks to funding from ECHO, humanitarian aid arm of the European Commission, and the governments of Japan, Netherlands and the United Kingdom, registration as a refugee and the renewal of documents are now completed within hours at Jordan’s urban refugee registration facilities.

In the last week, UNHCR has cleared the backlog of urban Syrian refugees at northern Jordan’s Irbid registration centre. UNHCR staff at Irbid are now able to process 1,300 individual refugees a day seeking documentation.

“As of the 25th September we have conquered our backlog and registered 100,000 new arrivals in seven months when we were originally aiming to register 63,000 by the end of the year,” said Naseer Al Nabilsi, UNHCR officer-in-charge at Irbid’s registration centre. “A devoted team of six registration officers worked long hours every day since February.”

Irbid is also the first location worldwide where UNHCR introduced biometric iris scanning to assist in refugee registration. The agency unveiled the new technology in August; it poses no risks to the confidentiality of refugees and prevents double registration.

Moreover, UNHCR staff now collect more detailed information on relatives, education and profession. This enhanced data will help UNHCR address both immediate and longer- term protection needs.

The Anmar Hmoud Registration Centre in Amman’s Khalda neighbournood, which UNHCR opened in the summer also processes refugees within hours of their arrival. The new centre – shaded and spacious – can process up to 3,000 refugees daily, triple the capacity of UNHCR’s previous facility.

UNHCR also expects the new, fast processing equipment to lower the previous no-show rate of approximately 10 per cent as word spreads about the speed of registration. The agency has already seen a noticeable rise in the number of Syrian refugees requesting appointments.

“We think [the rise in the number of refugees coming forward for registration] is related to the start of the school year,” said Berween Younes, registration officer in Khalda. “They know by now that school administrations ask for the registration document.”

Syrian refugees previously had to return after their initial registration and wait another four to six hours outside UNHCR’s main Amman office to receive their documents. Now they need to wait a maximum of 50 minutes at the Anmar Hmod Centre before leaving with all the documentation needed to ensure their families are properly assisted and protected.

“It’s a lot more organized and efficient,” says 86-year-old Amna, a refugee who endured the previous system’s delays. Adding her son to her file had taken more than a year as her son’s appointment was postponed three times.

The improvement has also helped UNHCR staff. Niveen Majthoub, with 12 years’ experience working with the refugee agency in humanitarian crises, said the new site made it easier to identify vulnerable refugees who need priority treatment.

“You can actually see them sitting in a large hall, rather than crammed on top of each other in front of the gate,” she said. “Since it is a more spacious area, we were able to hire more staff who can talk to the refugees at the reception area and spot those that need earlier appointments.”

Khaled Shafagoj, an interviewer at the centre, said: “It has become a one-stop shop where the refugee can be referred to different sections, like legal counselling and community services, during the same visit.

“If I see that the refugee I am registering needs an assessment by community services, we can do this on the spot, rather than have the refugee go back and forth on multiple visits,” he said.

With an efficient registration centre in place, UNHCR is now reaching out to those who can’t visit it. A mobile registration unit caters to refugees in remote locations, registers them and issues documents on the spot.



Iris-scanning technology streamlines refugee registration process — UNHCR

UNHCR is now implementing Iris Scan for Refugee Registration.


Read the full article on the Jordan Time



UNHCR 2016 Call for Expression of interest – Nutrition Survey




Annex A_Partner Declaration

CEoI Nutrition Survey implementation

Annex D_Concept note format






Exclusive – Andrew Harper Extended Interview

In this exclusive, unedited interview, Andrew Harper, head of the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan, breaks down the humanitarian disaster along the Syrian border


Setting example, but needing support

From the Jordan times: 2131301295_e0f5902960_o

As world leaders convene in Kuwait to pledge support to address the enormous humanitarian costs of the “rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation” in Syria, it is important to recognise the invaluable contribution that Jordan is making to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable.

Since the conflict erupted, in March 2011, Jordan has received over 320,000 Syrians. This is more than any other country in the region; the figure increases by some 2,000 to 4,000 each night.

In January alone, and despite the immense difficulties of crossing during some of the harshest snow and rain conditions seen for many years, over 40,000 Syrians entered the Kingdom. The majority are children, with almost 10,000 less than four years old.

The bulk of the remaining population is extremely vulnerable: either single mothers whose husbands have been lost to the conflict, the elderly or the ill. They have fled to Jordan as they have no other option.

At the current rate of entry, over half a million Syrians could be in need of protection and assistance in the Kingdom by June 2013. This figure could again double by the end of the year. This would be a serious challenge for any more affluent country in the world, let alone one with limited natural resources and strained infrastructure.

Fortunately for those fleeing the conflict in Syria, the Hashemite Kingdom has always been at the forefront of international humanitarian efforts, often taking on more responsibilities than could possibly be expected.

Since the establishment of the Kingdom, Jordan has provided protection and assistance to persons fleeing conflict, and continues to be a role model not only for the region but also internationally. It has provided protection to Palestinian refugees since 1948, to Iraqis through both Gulf wars and now to hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been forced to flee.

While Jordan’s generosity and traditions of hospitality are unquestioned, it desperately needs the substantive and ongoing support of the international community to reinforce this protection space.

Keeping its borders open to all those in need comes at a cost. In addition to the tens of millions of dollars spent on establishing and running Zaatari and the new camp at Mrejib Al Fhood, the government of Jordan had to use its own increasingly scarce resources to cover the costs of hosting the rapidly growing Syrian refugee population.

Schools that are already overstretched are accepting Syrian children desperate to restart their learning, hospitals short of beds and overworked medical staff continue to provide life-saving care for Syrians. Subsidised energy, water and bread are freely made available to all those in need.

According to the Government, more than $226 million in costs were incurred in 2012. In 2013, and with an accelerating refugee population, this figure will be much higher.

This by itself is another reason why it is so crucial for the international community to not only recognise the enormous pressure that Jordan has come under and acknowledge its difficult economic situation, but also to stand by and support Jordan to become an even stronger, economically secure host country that is able to guarantee the safety of refugees and at-risk populations.

It is a role that we should all support, with all means necessary, and immediately.

In addition to international support to aid agencies responding to the emergency needs, particularly in Zaatari and elsewhere, Jordan requires long-term strategic and infrastructural support.

It is only fair that the enormous demands placed on Jordan’s electricity infrastructure, schools, hospitals, wastewater plants and other essential infrastructure be compensated.

Given the ongoing volatility in the region, and Jordan’s own strategically important role, it is essential that the concept of international burden sharing be translated into substantial resource support at this critical time.

I would like to emphasise that the region has a rich and generous tradition of providing protection to those fleeing violence. Jordan, which continues to be a role model, cannot, however, continue to provide this protection space without the support of its friends.

Support should not be based on short-term strategic considerations, but on a longer-term strategic partnerships providing the necessary support to host countries in the region until the displaced can return.

Indeed, it is a country such as Jordan, with its own set of challenges, that continues to set an example to the rest of the world on how to respect the needs of those who are most vulnerable and who have been forced to flee their homes.

The writer is UNHCR Representative to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, humanitarian coordinator a.i. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.


Syrian children are on the road to recovery

In Jordan, Syrian children are on the road to recovery after fleeing ongoing violence in their country


By Wendy Bruere

RAMTHA, Jordan, 19 June 2012 – Reem* and her six children fled their home in southern Syria in February after her husband Abood* was abducted by armed men. The children were between ages 5 and 18.

“The children were scared and insecure when we first came to Jordan,” Reem said. “When they saw cars [like the one that took their father], they would start screaming.”

But in the months since they arrived in northern Jordan, living in the Bashabshe transit yacility, Reem has noticed things starting to improve. The children have been attending psychosocial activities and remedial education classes run by UNICEF partner Noor al-Hussein Foundation (NHF). The activities include group counselling, educational games, crafts and drawing.

Tens of thousands of Syrian children and their families have fled the ongoing violence in Syria, spilling into the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are almost 78,000 registered refugees in these countries, with more than 24,000 in Jordan alone.

Children affected by violence

In Ramtha, a teacher with NHF, Hana’a Al-Zoubi, said she can detect evidence of what the refugee children had experienced in Syria. “Even the youngest can identify different weapons … There is a 3-year-old here, and every time he sees [someone he thinks could be armed] he cries and says, ‘They’re going to kill us! They’re going to beat us!’”

“Other children here have told stories about their homes being burnt down and close family members being killed,” Zoubi said.

But over time, the children stop looking scared, and they start to laugh and smile again, Zoubi said. “There’s a big change.”

Like other children in the facility, Reem and Abood’s children are now able to continue their educations, after spending months out of school in Syria, where violence on the streets kept them confined to their home. Amjad*, 8, said he has made friends at the public school he attends in Ramtha and that he enjoys learning and playing soccer there.

“Because they attended remedial education classes, it was easier for them in school here,” Reem said. “They enjoy going to school in Jordan.” NHF runs a bus to a local school for children at the transit facility.

“The children are doing much better here, they are sleeping and they feel secure. In Syria there was often the sound of bombs,” Reem said.

UNICEF Representative in Jordan Dominique Hyde said children are very vulnerable to the psychological distress caused by violence and insecurity, but “through learning and playing in a supportive environment, children begin to regain a sense normalcy and start to recover.”

While one of the children – now 19 – has since left, Reem said the rest of her family feels settled in Jordan. “I expected the situation to be much worse, but we have shelter here and the children can go to school, so things are much better,” she said.

The Government-run Bashabshe transit facility provides temporary shelter for displaced Syrians entering the country without legal papers. It is equipped to accommodate some 500 people at a time. Other transit facilities have opened recently in Ramtha to host the influx of Syrians fleeing to Jordan.

Ongoing support

Zoubi said when NHF began psychosocial and remedial education activities in Ramtha, in December of last year, many children were withdrawn and seemed reluctant to take part. NHF staff went from family to family to explain the activities and invite children to attend.

With gentle encouragement – and a focus on activities that require group work and sharing – children gradually begin to participate and make friends. Now, around 100 children attend every day. NHF staff members continue to visit newly arrived families to let them know about available activities and to encourage children to attend.

When families leave the facility, they are still able to access assistance through NHF and other service providers, if needed. With UNICEF support, NHF also runs psychosocial and remedial education activities for displaced Syrian children in the Cyber City transit facility in Ramtha.

*Names have been changes to protect the interviewees.

** Photo: Ivan Bartolini for UNHCR/2012