Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have called on congregations across the country to help the growing number of Syrian refugees fleeing violence in the long-running civil war.
The Syrian civil war has rumbled on for over 2 years now. The most recent estimates suggest that 100,000 people have died and 3 million have been forced to flee their homes. 2 million people have been left homeless, in refugee camps or living in overcrowded housing in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.
An estimated 560,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan, a country with a population only slightly bigger than Scotland. SCIAF has been working with our partner, Caritas Jordan, to deliver emergency aid to Syrian refugees and the vulnerable Jordanians affected by the increasing demand for resources in Jordan. Through Caritas Jordan, SCIAF has helped to provide food, water, shelter, soap, blankets, heaters and medical care.
The influx of Syrian refugees to Jordan has meant basic resources and public services are massively strained, stretched further still by the continued presence of Iraqi refugees who are still awaiting the opportunity to return to their homes.
Life in Jordan’s urban areas is tough for refugees, the cost of living is high and employment opportunities are scarce – any savings the Syrian refugees had are rapidly dwindling. Inevitable tensions have started to surface between the Jordanians and the Syrian refugees, as many refugees will accept lower wages through illegal working and competition for jobs in the country is already very high.
The healthcare system in Jordan is under immense pressure. Refugees often arrived wounded and can face long waits for medical assistance. Private healthcare is of a higher standard, but is expensive. People often have to choose between feeding their families, paying rent or seeking medical attention.
The trauma has taken its toll on those involved and psychological counselling is often required. The conflict has brought terrible experiences for many and left them carrying mental as well as physical scars. In a Caritas survey of 950 Syrian men and women refugees aged between 18 and 60 in Jordan, one in five people were in need of some form of psychological therapy.
Caritas Jordan psychologist Lana Snobar said
“Nobody can get on with their normal lives if they are mentally ill. The refugees need to be able to talk about their experiences. They need to express their fears. We try and get them to do activities that they find relaxing like sport or socialising. Some people who don’t get treatment can resolve their issues through prayer or with the support of their family. Others develop mild or high psychological disorders.”
The elderly are particularly vulnerable refugees. 87% said they regularly couldn’t afford medicines they needed and many eat less to allow younger family members to get the food they require. Pope Francis condemned the recent use of chemical weapons, announcing a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria this Saturday. The Holy Father has called for a negotiated settlement of the civil war and said, “My heart is deeply wounded by what is happening in Syria…. (all sides in the civil war should) listen to the voice of their conscience and with courage take up the way of negotiations.”
SCIAF International Programme Manager, Robert Angove said:
“The plight of Syrian refugees is worsening. Many are traumatised by what they have seen and in need of psychological support. Many others are carrying with war-related injuries. The huge influx of new refugees is placing a substantial burden on the host communities in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. There is increasing pressure on accommodation outside the camps, food, water and local medical services.
“SCIAF is working with Caritas Jordan to provide emergency aid to refugees and vulnerable Jordanians who are helping to host new arrivals. The help includes medical care, vouchers for food, clothing, and accommodation, as well as soap, blankets and heaters.
“Our latest figures show that over 146,800 Syrian people have been registered by Caritas Jordan and received help in Mafraq, Irbid, Zarqa, Amman and Madaba.”
SCIAF’s Syrian Refugee Emergency Appeal has received over £90,000 in donations from our supporters across Scotland. Your donations have helped our partners, Caritas Jordan, to reach out to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanian families. However, the need is great and urgent. Tens of thousands of refugees continue to pour over the borders every day, please keep these people in your prayers.
What can I do?
•Give – Please give whatever you can today to help us to reach out to the most vulnerable
•Reflect – Keep the people of Syria in your prayers with our series of prayers below (just click to download)
•Act – Ask your MP to challenge the role of UKTI in pushing arms deals in this action from Campaign Against Arms Trade
•Join The Holy Father and millions of our brothers and sisters across the globe by observing the day of fasting and prayer for Syria on Saturday 7th September