Queen Rania Al Abdullah met with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) offices in New York on Monday, to discuss the plight of Syrian and Sudanese refugees and local communities in host countries, amid dwindling global donor support at a time when increased urgent international cooperation is needed.
During the meeting, Her Majesty and Grandi discussed the protracted Syrian refugee crisis, which has become severely underfunded in recent years. Despite being overshadowed by other unfolding emergencies around the world, the Queen explained that “the Syrian refugee crisis is still very much a crisis” for Jordan, according to a statement by the Office of Her Majesty.
Due to declining international support, Jordan, which is host to over 1.3 million Syrian refugees – 12% of its population – of which some 655,000 are registered with UNHCR, is being forced to carry more of the burden singlehandedly. The refugee response is woefully underfunded with serious consequences for the lives of refugees and decreased global support has forced the UN World Food Program (WFP) to reduce assistance to over 100,000 Syrian refugees in camps and fully withdraw support for 50,000 others living outside camps.
Underlining the enormous implications of this decision for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Her Majesty reiterated the importance of pooling efforts, reaffirming Grandi’s emphasis on collective strategic action to address the plight of global refugees.
The High Commissioner and the agency’s team also briefed Her Majesty on the gravity of the situation in Sudan, which according to UNHCR, has contributed to the forced displacement of over 5 million Sudanese – 4 million of whom are internally displaced, with the rest seeking refuge and asylum in neighboring countries.
Since the outbreak of Sudan’s crisis in April, refugees have been crossing Sudan’s borders into five neighboring countries: the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, South Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Underscoring the scale of the Sudanese refugee crisis, the High Commissioner noted that 90% of those arriving in Chad, from where he recently returned, are women and children. Grandi also highlighted the challenges faced by neighboring host nations struggling to contend with the growing influx given their already limited resources and preexisting crises.
Calling attention to the pressing need for greater financial support, Grandi informed Her Majesty about the inadequate funding for UNHCR’s Sudan Emergency Regional Refugee Response Plan. The plan, which is appealing for a little over 1 billion US dollars to provide essential aid and protection to over 1.8 million Sudanese expected to arrive in the five neighboring countries by the end of 2023, has received only 27% of its required funding to date.
Her Majesty also raised the subject of heightened intolerance towards refugees, stating that in light of multiple crises unfolding around the world, “feelings towards refugees and migrants have become polarized and politicized, eliciting so many passions on all sides,” and adding that this polarization of attitudes can be an obstacle to UNHCR’s work.
Commending UNHCR’s efforts, Her Majesty said, “Your team, with their combination in equal parts of compassion and professionalism, are probably the only ray of light for displaced people. They come to you in their darkest hour with nothing, and need everything and your help is really the difference between life and death.”
For his part, Grandi stated, “I am grateful to the Kingdom of Jordan and Her Majesty for their steadfast and extraordinary support of refugees from Syria and throughout the region over the decades. The hospitality is remarkable, but cannot be taken for granted. It is critical that the world provides continued and robust support to not just the refugees, but also Jordanian hosts who continue to shoulder the international community’s responsibility for so many refugees.”
Her Majesty and Grandi were joined at the meeting by UNHCR New York Office Director, Ruven Menikdiwela, Special Assistant to the High Commissioner, Dustin Okazaki, and UNHCR New York Office Senior Policy Advisor, Blanche Tax.
Following the briefing, Her Majesty greeted UNHCR staff, thanking them and Grandi for their tireless efforts to protect and improve the lives of refugees and displaced people worldwide.