The pandemic threatens vulnerable families.
31.03.2015 - News

Jordan: “Life has become even harder.”

Life has become even harder for refugee families. Charity organisations’ lack of funding and the end of the free services that were provided by the Jordanian authorities are causing additional difficulties. Many families had left the camps because of the tough living conditions. They now have to return to register officially, as having up-to-date documents allows them to receive food and medical care.

In October, you told the media about the story of a mother and her four children: her husband had been killed during bombings, the eldest son was wanted by the Syrian police and the youngest son’s legs had been wounded and she had to carry him. They had been travelling for ten days when Terre des hommes took them in in Jordan.
Yes, we are still looking after that family. They now live in Zaatari camp, where the child has been hospitalised. When they arrived, we had provided them with basic necessities: food and clothing. It was essential that the mother received psychological support and joined a programme to help her evacuate her stress and regain enough strength to take care of her children. We also helped the family register with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

You are confronted with the refugees’ living conditions on a daily basis. How do they live, particularly the children? Can the newcomers find a place to begin a new life?
Life in the communities is becoming more and more difficult for the refugees. They cannot work because it is almost impossible and very expensive to obtain a work permit. But many refugees work illegally because aid from the international organisations and the UN are not sufficient. And not just adults, children are also working to help their family stay afloat. In some cases, they find themselves in situations of exploitation, working in unsafe conditions and for too many hours a day.

Is undeclared work tolerated?
No. The authorities have strengthened their efforts to identify refugees in an illegal situation (without official documents or a registered address) and send them back to the camps. In any case, all those arriving at the borders now are automatically sent to the camps.

And yet one refugee out of six at most is in an official camp.
That is correct. Some of people who have been here for a long time live like nomads in tents. They are among the most vulnerable and are constantly on the move to find work. Most refugees share their homes with other families. In the worst cases, especially in big cities, they live in basements, without windows, ventilation, water or escape plan, and sometimes even live among rats.

How do the refugees find an income?
Often, they have to sell their personal belongings (for instance jewelry or even furniture if they were able to take any with them) to be able to afford their rent. It isn’t uncommon to see families who do not possess a single piece of furniture, not even a mattress to sleep on.

Do you still see any future prospects for the refugees?
At the moment, it is very difficult to imagine any improvement. The situation of the families Terre des hommes takes care of keeps worsening.

Despite this, do you feel you make a positive contribution?
Yes, my colleagues at Tdh and myself manage to reach out to the most vulnerable people and improve their situation somewhat, but not to a level that would be acceptable. For instance, we were able to distribute blankets and food during the cold wave in January, which helped make them feel less cold, but not warm. This is an important distinction. We lack the means to do more.

What are Terre des hommes’ next objectives in the north of Jordan?
We are going to work more specifically on children victims of the worst forms of work or of violence. It is important for Terre des hommes to be able to target these children and to bring about a real change in their lives, because their condition is simply unbearable.

Every year, Terre des hommes makes a difference to the daily lives of over two million children and relatives. Find out more about our projects in Syria and Jordan.

Read more:

Syrian crisis: 4 years of conflict

Jordan: Bastian Baker sings for Syrian refugees

Syria: Reclaiming part of a lost childhood