Casey: Fully Fund Administration's Budget Request for Refugee Aid As Countries like Jordan Grapple with Syrian Refugee Crisis

Casey Sends Letter to Leaders of the Appropriations Committee Asking Them to Fund the President’s FY15 Request for Assistance / Jordan is a Strategic Partner and Critical to U.S. National Security Interests

Casey: Fully Fund Administration's Budget Request for Refugee Aid As Countries like Jordan Grapple with Syrian Refugee Crisis

Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group and Co-Chair of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Caucus, called on the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund President Obama’s request to provide bilateral assistance to Jordan as well as to the UN agencies working there. Senator Casey’s letter comes as over 613,000 Syrian refugees have already fled to Jordan. 

“Jordan is facing a massive influx of refugees stemming from the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria,” Senator Casey said. “I believe it is in the United States’ national security interest to help Jordan as they bear a significant burden in working to accommodate vulnerable refugees and offer some stability in the region. Therefore, I urge Congress to fully fund the President’s FY15 request for assistance and consider additional funds if possible.” 

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:   

The Honorable Barbara Mikulski                        The Honorable Richard Shelby   

Chairwoman                                                             Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Appropriations                 Senate Committee on Appropriations

The Capitol, S-131                                                    The Capitol, S-146A

United States Senate                                              United States Senate                     

Washington, D.C. 20510                                        Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Patrick Leahy                               The Honorable Lindsey Graham

Chairman                                                                  Ranking Member                           

Subcommittee on State, Foreign                         Subcommittee on State, Foreign

Operations and Related Programs                       Operations and Related Programs

Committee on Appropriations                              Committee on Appropriations     

United States Senate                                              United States Senate                                 

Washington, D.C.  20510                                       Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Chairwoman, Chairman and Ranking Members:

The deepening humanitarian crisis emanating from Syria continues to put enormous pressure on the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey.  The FY14 appropriations bill emphasized the need for the State Department and USAID to help these countries respond to the influx of Syrian refugees by providing funding beyond the President’s request.  I write to ask that you fully fund the President’s FY15 request for bilateral assistance to Jordan and to the UN agencies working there, and consider additional funding beyond the President’s request if possible. The United States has a national security interest in supporting Jordan’s economic and political stability, due to its strategic location in the heart of the Middle East and the longstanding security partnership between our two countries.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are more than 613,000 Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan; some estimates are even higher.  This is equivalent to roughly 10% of Jordan’s total population and akin to the United States rapidly absorbing nearly 29 million people.  While their situation is far from ideal, Syrian refugees in Jordan have access to public services like healthcare and education and have been granted fuel, water, and food subsidies available to Jordanian citizens.  In October 2013, the Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation released a factsheet, which estimated that the additional cost needed to continue hosting roughly 600,000 refugees could exceed $1.68 billion.

While the Zaatari camp accommodates roughly 125,000 and Jordan has recently announced plans to open a new camp, about 80% of the Syrian refugees in Jordan live outside formal camps.  This population is particularly vulnerable.  In its March 2014 report entitled “Outside the Camps,” UNHCR stated that “over half of Syrian school-age children in Jordan were not going to school during the 2012 – 2013 school year.” Many have found shelter in substandard and even dangerous buildings. Scattered across Jordan, these urban refugee communities can be particularly difficult to assist, but they also have a greater impact on the host communities in which they live.     

Jordan has offered these Syrians a refuge from the fighting at a time when their own economy is still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis.  A recent Refugees International field report highlighted that the refugee influx is disproportionately affecting poorer Jordanian communities, which lack the resources to respond.  The UN’s Regional Response Plan (RRP) for 2014 states:

“The surge in population has stretched the ability of local authorities to maintain service delivery, resulted in over-crowded labour markets, and induced considerable additional public expenditure. Schools and hospitals are running well beyond capacity, with 77 schools currently double-shifting in order to accommodate Syrian children […] Competition for jobs has driven wages down, in parallel to increases in prices for basic necessities, fuel and rental accommodation.”

The situation may only deteriorate; the same UN RRP projects the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan could swell to nearly 800,000 this year. 

In addition to the challenges created by the conflict in Syria, Jordan faces a chronic water shortage and is in the process of making reforms to its economy, under its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  A March 2014 report by Mercy Corps states that Jordan is the third most water insecure country in the world. The expanding population of Syrian refugees is bound to exacerbate this situation.  The United States and our international partners should support the Jordanian government in its efforts to address the downstream affects the Syria crisis is having on their economy and infrastructure. 

The State Department and USAID have already mobilized to expand the scope of their work in Jordan and the region to address this crisis. I urge the Committee to fund the President’s FY15 request for bilateral Economic Support Funds (ESF) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Jordan, as well as for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) fund that supports UN agencies’ humanitarian activities in Jordan. It is vitally important that the United States continue to provide assistance beyond the gates of camps like Zaatari to urban refugee communities and to the Jordanian government.

Thank you for your leadership and consideration of my request.  I look forward to working with you to help bolster the United States’ response to the humanitarian catastrophe emanating from the crisis in Syria.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to contact me or my staff directly.  

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

Casey Record on Syria

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