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Agenda:

At least 150,000 Syrians are believed to have died in battles between government forces and rebels since the civil war began in March, 2011 and there is no end in sight for this increasingly savage and cruel conflict.

United Nations figures tracking registered refugees show the human tide of men, women and children fleeing the violence reached a peak early last year amid claims the government had used chemical weapons.

However, each day sees many thousands more escaping into neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey. More than half a million people have fled across the border to Jordan.

I recently visited Caritas Jordan, the local partner of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf) for whom I volunteer. I saw the refugee crisis first hand and how the Catholic aid agencies are helping people who have had no alternative but to leave their homes in Syria with nothing but what they could carry.

Donations from Scotland have helped Caritas Jordan to establish a reception centre where refugees can access medical care and dental clinics.

They provide legal services and help with permits and passport applications. They also give out food vouchers and help with housing for refugees who are not in camps. In the winter blankets, mattresses and heaters are also given out to the most vulnerable.

I was profoundly impressed by the Caritas staff who handle a massive amount of work to help the ever growing number of Syrian refugees.

A community centre manager, Suhad Zarafili, introduced me to Ahmed, who was at the medical clinic to get pre-natal care for his pregnant wife.

Before the civil war began, Ahmed worked in a TV satellite business in Homs. He said that the government bombing of residential areas in his city and the total destruction of his home had forced him to flee to Jordan. He told me: "I was beaten by government security forces who suspected me of supporting the rebels."

Caritas Jordan helped Ahmed to secure a temporary residency permit and, along with care for his pregnant wife, he also gets food vouchers.

He has had trouble getting his son on his passport and Caritas has helped with this too.

I travelled 20 miles from Amman and visited the purpose-built Our Lady of Peace Centre, where Caritas look after children, many of whom have been traumatised by the terrible acts of violence they have either suffered or witnessed.

The centre also deals with children with special needs, both physical and psychological. I saw the children draw pictures of planes carrying out bombing and tanks in action.

I visited refugees who are not living in camps, well off the tourist routes, in a building supervised by the Syrian Orthodox Church, which houses eight families in two rooms.

Privacy is in short supply. The family sleeping areas are separated by blankets held up by clothes pegs. There is just one bath and there are only two toilets for 35 people.

I spoke to Syrian refugees who are trained in engineering and pharmacy but who are not permitted to work in Jordan.

They told me: "We came here for two months. That was two years ago."

Thousands are still streaming out of Syria as the conflict continues and the population of Jordan is continuing to increase.

The needs of the refugees are great; many have nothing. Many poor Jordanians are also suffering due to the increasingly short supply of jobs, housing and access to healthcare.

Caritas is also helping them with food vouchers and other aid.

Generous donations from Scotland have made so much possible but, with no end to the war in sight, the life-saving work of Sciaf and its partners in Jordan and Lebanon needs to continue.

We would all do well to keep the terrible plight of the Syrian refugees at the forefront of our minds.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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