Syria: hospitality in the border towns
“Can I please offer you some coffee at my home?” The woman holds my wrist and insists I pay her a visit in her new home in the town of Ramtha, northern Jordan, just across the border from Syria, where she originally comes from.
We’re standing outside one of Save the Children’s child-friendly spaces in Ramtha. It’s hot, dusty and loud as children’s voices fill the air.
Just an ordinary day, although not so ordinary after all.
A roof over one’s head
This woman and her children live in a rented flat close by, along with other Syrians who have recently fled the violence in their home country.
It‘s not the same as home in Syria, but at least it‘s a roof over one’s head. Their humble home, with a couple of mattresses and a few belongings from Syria, doesn’t stop her showing me hospitality.
She takes her children to the child-friendly space so they can spend time with other children, and so she can meet with friends from her hometown.
This is also a place where Jordanians come. In fact, half of the children are Jordanian.
This isn’t like most refugee crises where the bulk of people live in camps. Here it’s the opposite, most Syrians have rented houses, or are staying with relatives. Some have accepted the offers of complete strangers to move in and share their home.
I’m told a story about an elderly lady in Amman who’s paying the rent for an entire Syrian family; even though the prices have gone up and the crisis is dragging on.
The locals of the two border towns, Ramtha and Mafraq, have gone out of their way to accommodate their brothers and sisters from Syria.
But these are small and poor communitites that already face hardship, so it doesn’t take a lot for the locals to sense that something has changed and that it’s taking a toll on the infrastructure of their small communities.
Before the crisis, there were around 85,000 people living in and around Ramtha; but with the influx of Syrians, the number of inhabitants has risen to 100,000.
Dara‘a, a southern Syrian town which has seen heavy fighting, is only 5 km away from Ramtha. This partly explains the tight links between the two towns and how the locals are responding to the influx of Syrians.
This is a place where people, on both sides of the border, share family names, history and culture. And now they share concerns.
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Written by Hedinn Halldorsson, Emergency Communication Manager