NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - If the war in Syria had taken place in Europe, the world would have reacted more quickly to foster peace and treated millions of refugees fleeing the protracted conflict more humanely, said Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein.
Jordan has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees since the conflict in neighbouring Syria began almost six years ago. Around one-fifth of Jordan’s 10 million population are Syrian refugees - making it the largest host of refugees per capita.
“Jordan has the highest number of refugees in the world in relation to our population, and yet is the third poorest country in the world when it comes to water resources,” Prince Ali told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview over the weekend.
“It has been a burden to our economy, but we believe it is our moral duty and that is something we are very proud of. Had a war like this started in Europe, I think the world would have reacted much quicker than it has in the case of Syria.”
The war has uprooted nearly 9 million people inside Syria and forced nearly 5 million more to seek safety in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and beyond.
Over one million refugees, including Syrians, have crossed into Europe, according to the United Nations, yet only one-tenth have been granted asylum - 65 percent by Germany.
Earlier this month, the European Union’s executive said member states should be allowed to send some asylum seekers back to Greece from mid-March.
Prince Ali urged rich nations to do more and warned that closing borders was no answer to the migrant crisis.
“You cannot close borders and try and keep problems out in a world where there is global warming and war. There is about to be a mass movement of people that will destabilise the world, if it is not treated properly,” he said on the sidelines of a child rights conference in the Indian capital.
“Even if the wealthiest nations in the world want to reject migrants and refugees into their countries, then go out and invest in poorer nations and help those in need help themselves.”
Expenses to host the refugees - as well as regional instability, a slump in tourist revenue, the collapse of trade routes through Iraq, Turkey and Syria - have taken a toll on Jordan’s economy.
The country is facing increased unemployment and decreasing foreign investment, yet is spending more than $2.5 billion a year - 6 percent of the gross domestic product and 25 percent of national annual revenue - on the refugees, says the World Bank.
Reporting by Nita Bhalla. Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org