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Iraqi refugees and detainees in Jordan

Talal S. Yadghar
talalworld@yahoo.com
2010 / 7 / 23

Iraqis started fleeing their country practically during eight-year Iraq-Iran war in 1980s. And after the invasion of Kuwait and aftermath of US-led war against Iraq, the numbers of Iraqis fleeing the regime and the sanctions grew more and more. The majority of Iraqis who left their country sought refuge in countries neighboring Iraq, especially Jordan.
Jordan s stability, religious tolerance, education and healthcare infrastructure and a relatively liberal social and economic environment attracted those who fled poverty, violence and persecution in their own countries. For all reasons above, Jordan has become the destination for the Iraqi refugees since 1990s.
Jordanian s official statistics showed that the number of Iraqis in Jordan after 2003 reached to 750.000. And, as we heard, only 40.000 to 50.000 Iraqis registered at the office of UNHCR in Amman, which means that most of the Iraqis are not considered as refugees!! The majority of them are from the upper class and came to Jordan to invest their money. Those who applied to UNHCR seeking refuge and settlement in the third country are still suffering from both international laws (immigration and refugees laws) and local laws (residency and work permit laws).
Iraqi refugees, who registered at UNHCR, live in impoverished communities with little international attention to their plight and little legal protection. UNHCR provides protection and assistance to the most refugees, but not all!! Every year the United Nations spends millions of dollars in the forms of financial support, medical and educational care or humanitarian aid for the Iraqi refugees in Jordan, but not all the Iraqis receive them. Due to the corruption of some United Nations officials and exploitation at the hands of citizens of the host country, who work at the humanitarian organizations, many Iraqi refuges are deprived of financial support and humanitarian aid. In addition, there is always a fear of detention and deportation by the Jordanian authorities!!
Although the Jordanian official spokespersons repeat the clause "Iraqis are our guests" over and over in many occasions, but the reality is far away from the fact. Most of the Iraqi refugees do not receive any kind of assistance whether financial support or humanitarian aid, as a consequence they have to work to survive and make their livings in this expensive country. The dilemma is that the Iraqis are not allowed to work and they are not given work permit like the other nationalities. Nevertheless, they work at the risk of deportation and of course they work with low wages and in some cases are exploited and are not paid by their Jordanian employers.
The other problem is that the Iraqi detainees in Jordan "The Forgotten Case". The Jordanian authorities detain thousands of Iraqis who do not have legal residency although they have protection documents from the UN! They release the Iraqi only if he can have a Jordanian sponsor otherwise the detainee will be deported to his country. Jordanian sponsorship is not free because the police detain the ID of the sponsor and the passport of the refugee as a procedure until leaving the country or resettled in a third country. Many Iraqi refugees have been in this situation for years. While waiting for a resettlement, they are paying their Jordanian sponsors a lot of money JD 50 to JD 150 each month. Their waiting may last for years. How can a refugee survive and live a decent and respectful life in such situation?? Many refugees ended up with physical and mental problems because of long term sufferings, such as (PTSD) post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
How come the United Nations turned a blind eye to this dilemma and did not coordinate with the Jordanian government to solve this problem? Is it a forgotten case??




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