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Giving refugees hope and a future

Mar 10,2015 - Last updated at Mar 10,2015

Last month I met a Syrian refugee family close to Amman whose daughter had recently taken the long and treacherous journey to Europe.

I felt real sadness that a young woman would take the risk of embarking on this journey on her own, using a network of smugglers, because she no longer believed there would be an option of returning home and her future here was bleak.

As I have seen throughout my career working with refugees, nobody ever wants to leave homes, family and friends or communities one belongs to.

The unprecedented number of Syrians displaced within their homeland or who have fled to neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, is staggering and nearly impossible to comprehend.

Almost 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes, either remaining inside Syria or becoming refugees in surrounding states.

Half of those displaced are children, almost equivalent to the entire population of Jordan.

Every day, more Syrians are being killed, displaced and wounded.

The conflict has become even more complicated due to the emergence of extremist groups and the expansion of violence and displacement into Iraq.

The likelihood that refugees will be able to return to their homes is becoming increasingly distant.

After four years of conflict and destruction in Syria, it is even more critical for the international community to renew and strengthen its commitment and support to the people of Syria, and to those countries generously hosting Syrian refugees.

Jordan has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those fleeing conflict, but this generosity can only be sustained if the international community raises its commitment to match the increasing needs of refugees and Jordanian host communities.

We are witnessing the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the last 70 years, and the response, in support of both refugees and of host communities, needs to match the exceptional nature of this crisis.

Jordan finds itself in an almost impossible situation: With scarce resources, it has had to balance being on the front line of a growing security crisis, hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, having its links to regional markets disrupted, while at the same time being expected to maintain and improve the delivery of services to its population and, to use a somewhat overused expression, to remain an oasis of stability in a very troubled region.

The international community must recognise that this stability comes at a price, and ensure that the price is evenly shared.

In the last year, international focus has shifted from the Syrian refugee crisis, with inherent security elements, to a concentration on the regional security crisis, with reduced attention to the needs of refugees.

It is short sighted to address the security symptoms in isolation.

The international community must also push for political solutions in Syria, for answers that would lead to the stabilisation of the humanitarian situation so that refugees can return home in dignity.

After years of conflict, tales of desperation are everywhere.

We must give these people hope, and we must give them a future where they can contribute in peace and security.

The writer is UNHCR representative to Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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