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UAE throws lifeline to Syrian refugees: paper

posted on 14/10/2015: 1173 views

Amid speculation about what the Gulf countries are doing to help in the Syrian refugee crisis, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, has announced that the UAE is the second highest provider of cash assistance to Syrian refugees living in urban and rural areas of Jordan.

According to the UNHCR, 27 percent of the contributions towards the Lifeline Appeal Campaign, launched by the mission in March 2015 in Jordan, came from residents of the UAE.

The number one contribution towards this cause comes from Saudi Arabia, with a whopping 36 percent, while the United States of America comes in only at number three, with 4 percent of the total collected funds. "UNHCR has collected US$7,331,925 towards the Lifeline Appeal campaign so far," Dalia El Fiki, Senior Public Information Assistant, UNHCR, Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times.

The campaign was exclusively launched for Syrian refugees living in Jordan, for whom essentials such as rent, food, and health care is a luxury.

However, despite the monetary contributions, refugees are still living in conditions of dire poverty. "Our main objective is to provide urgent cash assistance for 12,000 families, currently on the waiting list, by the end of 2015," said El Fiki. She said that so far, the mission itself has helped 26,000 non-camp families.

These 12,000 families are in dire need for cash assistance. "An average Syrian family only needs an annual amount of $1,500 to support themselves, which is Dh5,509," said El Fiki. People can donate anything from Dh150 to Dh5,000 towards the cause.

As the Syrian crisis enters its fifth year, the number of those displaced by the conflict continues to grow. According to the mission's report, 'Living in the Shadows', data collected during 41,976 interviews of refugee households show that 84 percent of the Syrian refugee population in Jordan live outside the refugee camps.

As of now, there are over 618,500 Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, close to one tenth of the country's population of nearly 6.5 million.

The Dubai-based daily quoted El Fiki as saying, "However, while approximately 16 percent of Syrian refugees live in established refugee camps, the remaining 84 percent, almost 523,000 individuals, reside outside camps in both urban and rural areas throughout the country."

Many have had to resort to exploitative and dangerous ways to support themselves and their families, including working illegally, child labour and even begging. Also, about 99 percent of the refugees don't have a work permit and live in poverty-stricken conditions.

To help the non-camp refugees, UNHCR launched the programme to provide cash assistance directly to the most vulnerable Syrian families to support their very basic costs of living. "When a donation is made to UNHCR, cash is provided directly to refugees. More importantly, it helps restore the dignity of refugee families who have lost everything," she added.

Refugees can access these funds through an ATM, which uses iris scan technology without the need for a bank card or a PIN code. Jordan is the first country in the world to use iris scan to access money from an ATM. UNHCR representative in Jordan, Andrew Harper, said, "This is probably the most effective and efficient assistance programme anywhere in the world. Refugees use their irises as a form of identification, so this makes it fraud proof," he says.

The system also has very low overheads, meaning that for every dollar donated to the cash assistance programme, around 97 cents ends up in the pockets of refugees. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


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