Humanitarian workers also rank refugees simply because funds are limited. “What we lack is funding. It’s not UNHCR’s or anyone’s fault,” the NGO source says. “Big donors collect money, but there’s a volcano here, a tsunami there—some conflicts just don’t reach a large enough scale.”
All this makes sense from an international perspective. But it is hard to explain to an individual like Abdelmagid Adam, who came to Amman from Sudan two months ago, fleeing police violence with his pregnant wife and four children. He has X-ray records from a hospital showing the brain damage from police beating him on the head. “I couldn’t speak for months,” Abdelmagid says. Three months ahead of his wife's due date, the family lives with no income in two rooms with moist air and leaking ceilings.
“Logic doesn’t work with refugees. They are in the fire,” the NGO source says. “Would anything make sense if you were burning or drowning? You’d think, ‘You see me dying, and you’re reasoning with me? Just help me. Pull me to safety.’”
Tensions are rising these days as Jordan approaches its coldest winter in 100 years, with temperatures expected to plunge lower than last year’s record of 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Abdelmagid cannot access the winterization kits of blankets, heaters, and clothing that agencies are giving to Syrians and other recognized refugees in the country. Talk of donor priority means nothing to him. His wife is giving birth in three months. His 1-year-old daughter is hungry and cold.
“Winter is very harsh on people,” the NGO source says. It breeds resentment, she explains, when one group sees another receiving help while they are seemingly denied arbitrarily. “Peaceful coexistence, the only thing we have in Jordan, is weakened,” the source adds.
One way to ensure coverage of Sudanese, Somali, and other marginalized refugees would be to require that a percentage quota of aid be given to all asylum-seeking nationalities in a given country. “If each organization gave 10 percent from their projects to Somalis and Sudanese, they’d be fine,” the NGO source says. But Jordan’s government has already faced a backlash from international donors for pushing them to spend at least 30 percent of their funding on Jordanian host communities, which are struggling to support the influx of Syrian refugees. Suggesting that funds to deal with the crisis be diverted even further would be difficult.
Donors might pull out from Jordan in response to more restrictions, the NGO source says. An aid quota policy for other refugees would have to be driven by aid agencies or donors themselves, not the government. “Or else Jordan will say, ‘I opened my borders and the donors left. Now the refugees will eat me alive,’” she adds.
Sudanese refugees have varying answers when asked what they want: Non-discrimination. Recognition. Survival. Education. Resettlement. Back in the apartment, one man has been huddled by the door all night, clutching a bed sheet over his shoulders and head. He looks up and speaks for the first time, blinking: “I just want to go somewhere safe.” His voice is soft. “I want a safe place for home.”