Jordan’s King Scheduled to Visit White House amid Rising Refugee Issues

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

King Abdullah II of Jordan will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on February 24th, where the two leaders will discuss “the fight against Islamic State, support for Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to the White House.

Jordan, which has accepted hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, is now at a “boiling point,” according to King Abdullah, as the country struggles to absorb the estimated 1.3 million individuals that now make up almost 20 percent of Jordan’s population. “For the first time we can’t do it any more,” said Abdullah, as 20,000 Syrian refugees remained stranded at the Syria-Jordan border after a slowdown in processing.

Schools, hospitals, and jobs are seeing particularly immense pressure, as only half of Syrian children in Jordan are enrolled in school and only 1 percent of Syrian refugees have been given work permits. The slipping of the economy has already led to anger and protests, and some politicians “have tried to link the refugees to rising crime, terrorism, or a threat to national identity.” King Abdullah has stated that 25 percent of the state budget is currently spent on helping refugees and that Jordan desperately needs more support from the international community.

Last week the EU pledged over €3 billion ($3.36 billion) in support to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey this year, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged around $890 million for the same countries. He said $600 million going toward “humanitarian assistance and $290 million would be allocated to development aid for things such as education in neighboring states.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the EU will “do whatever it can to improve export conditions for the countries bearing the brunt of Syria’s refugee crisis, including possible trade preferences” for Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.