12.10.13

Hearing On Assistance For Jordan And Lebanon And Refugee Relief, Related To The Civil War In Syria

Chairman Patrick Leahy
Hearing On Assistance For Jordan And Lebanon And Refugee Relief,
Related To The Civil War In Syria
Department of State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee
December 10, 2013

I want to welcome our witnesses:  Anne Richard, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration; Ambassador Bouran of Jordan and Ambassador Chedid of Lebanon; and Andrew Harper and Ewen Macleod from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Thank you for being here.  

I know our United Nations witnesses traveled a long distance, and for that we are very grateful. The High Commissioner, who Senator Graham and I know personally, is highly regarded here.

I also want to thank Senator Graham who proposed this hearing because of his deep concern, which we all share, with the Syria situation we are here to discuss.   

We have all been following the humanitarian catastrophe that continues to unfold for the people of Syria and surrounding countries.  No neighbors of Syria have borne the brunt of this disaster more directly than Jordan and Lebanon, and the world is grateful for their generosity. 

Estimates of the total number of Syrian refugees vary, but we are told that it exceeds 2.2 million, of who some 557,000 are in Jordan and 825,000 in Lebanon. 

In Jordan they are mostly living in sprawling tent camps, and you see the photograph of one here.  In Lebanon they are scattered among the general population.  But whatever their situation, it is extremely dire and it is putting huge strains on the two governments and local populations.

Most worrisome, the civil war in Syria shows no sign of ending. This is a protracted crisis that will impose long-term burdens on Jordan and Lebanon, as well as Turkey and Iraq, and almost certainly require significant international donor aid for years to come.  

And whenever the war ends, the task of helping millions of refugees and internally displaced persons rebuild their shattered lives will be immense.

Jordan is a close ally of the United States and before this crisis was already accommodating some 2 million Palestinian refugees.  Lebanon is struggling with a myriad of problems, not the least of which is the violent influence of Hezbollah.  

We have an ongoing interest in helping both countries cope with this crisis, but as Assistant Secretary Richard knows there are other refugee crises – particularly in Africa – that also require our assistance and our budget is limited.   

In this hearing we want to hear about the most urgent needs, how we can further alleviate the burdens on Jordan and Lebanon as we continue to respond to the other demands on our humanitarian aid budget, how much other donors are providing and what we can realistically expect from them in the future.


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