(Iraqi doctor working for a charity in Zarqa. – Photo by wasapninjordan)
AMMAN (AFP) — Jordan said on Tuesday that it estimated the costs of sheltering hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees over the past three years at more than two billion dollars, and appealed for international help.
“Hosting our Iraqi brothers depletes the infrastructure and has cost the government more than 1.6 billion dinars (2.2 billion dollars) during the past three years,” Planning Minister Suheir al-Ali told visiting UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
“We call on the international community to help Jordan face this new economic challenge, particularly given that the country has very limited natural resources and capabilities,” the official Petra news agency quoted her as saying.
According to the UNHCR, 4.2 million Iraqis have been fled their homes since the US-led invasion of 2003, with between 500,000 and 750,000 of them finding refuge in Jordan.
Iraq has pledged eight million dollars to Jordan to help its smaller neighbour meet the costs of sheltering its nationals.
At the meeting with Guterres, who is on a regional tour that will also include Syria, Education Minister Omar Shdiefat said 24,000 Iraqi pupils are currently studying at Jordanian schools.
Jordan has said up to 50,000 Iraqi pupils are expected to enrol in already overcrowded state schools for the 2007-2008 academic year after the kingdom scrapped a previous requirement for residency permits.
In December, the European Union granted 26.7 million euros (around 39.7 million dollars) to help Jordan provide schooling for Iraqi children.
The UNHCR this year appealed for 261 million dollars for programmes to “support the most vulnerable of the uprooted inside and outside Iraq.”