VICTORIA’S THOUGHTS ON HER FINAL DAY IN JORDAN
Victoria Prentis MP is currently in Jordan with Huw Merriman MP on a trip organised by Save the Children, one of the many major international charities operating in the country. The MPs are visiting refugee camps in Jordan and will also have meetings with local officials and representatives of aid agencies. Victoria is hoping to gain a greater understanding of the crisis in Syria, its impact on neighbouring countries, and the effect of the response of the international community.
Final Thoughts from Jordan: Friday 23 September
Today marks our final day in Jordan with Save the Children. The visit has given us a remarkable insight in to the refugee and migration crisis in the region and the support which a host country needs from its global partners in order to maintain stability.
What we found in Jordan was, despite the many difficult and harrowing stories, positive. Despite having to accommodate over 600,000 Syrian refugees (and this is just the official numbers), Jordan is a relatively peaceful country. The Syrian refugees are largely safe and secure albeit there is still work to do to ensure that the refugees can build a life with freedom to travel, study and work.
The role played by the UK’s aid programme gives us a sense of pride. The Jordanians are being supported by our financial aid and volunteer expertise. The support given by the UK, in managing this huge migration influx, brings with it the opportunity to champion the basic rights and welfare which the refugees need.
Having spoken to many refugees, we are left with the impression that they are not planning for a new life in Europe, or beyond, but want to obtain the tools to make a success of their lives in Jordan. The refugees ultimately want to get home to Syria, when conditions permit. There is a perception in the UK that every Syrian refugee is heading for Europe. This is not what we have found.
Delivering foreign aid on the ground is ultimately better value for money to the UK taxpayer than using it to support refugees in the UK. It is also better for our long-term security to help people to remain in their own region, where they want to be. Those who are uneasy about the UK Government’s £13bl overseas aid budget may wish to reflect on the immigration pressures and costs we would face at home if we did not fund in host countries. Using this logic, we continue to support the Government policy which protects the £13bl overseas aid budget and uses it to support refugees in their own region rather than taking more migrants directly in to the UK.
Of major concern is the desolate area on the Jordanian/Syrian border, known as ‘the berm.’ With around eighty thousand migrants trapped in this area, Jordan’s border being closed to them and the onset of winter fast approaching, it is vital to get aid to these people to keep them alive. The conditions there can only be guessed at; humanitarian agencies have not been able to assess the situation properly for several months now.
We are conscious that there may be other host countries in the Middle East with differing experiences but we can only assess what we have found. We are looking forward to meeting with Ministers back in London to lobby for what is needed in Jordan.
We would finally like to thank Save the Children, and the Gates Foundation, for making this trip happen. Save the Children do an amazing job in Jordan. For many refugees, they are the difference between the gift of education and empowerment over ignorance and malaise. We promise to use our experience to lobby for all those who are in need of support and friendship in this remarkable country.
Huw Merriman MP and Victoria Prentis MP (22 September 2016)