Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Jordan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Jordan , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2002, Jordan hosted more than 150,000 Palestinian refugees from the Gaza Strip registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and thousands (514 cases/families) of non-Palestinian refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Of the 1,400 new cases registered during 2002, some 1,100 were Iraqis. UNHCR approved 300 refugee cases and denied 2,200. Of the 2,100 cases/families of asylum seekers pending with UNHCR, the overwhelming majority – some 1,900 – were from Iraq. Small numbers of Sudanese, Syrians, Egyptians, and Algerians also applied for refugee status in Jordan during the year.

An estimated 300,000 Iraqis lived in Jordan during 2002, but it was unclear how many were refugees. Many lived in refugee-like situations, and the number of Iraqis fleeing to Jordan continued to rise for reasons including the looming war on Iraq, economic sanctions, or fear of persecution.

In addition, there are an estimated 800,000 Palestinians displaced from the West Bank by the 1967 Israeli-Arab War who are Jordanian citizens and reside in Jordan. Palestinians still constitute more than half of Jordan's total population, but Jordan recognizes the vast majority of them as citizens, including the 1.55 million Palestinians registered with UNRWA from the West Bank. The U.S. Committee for Refugees no longer counts them as refugees even though they may be registered with UNRWA for assistance. Palestinians from Gaza, on the other hand, are not eligible for Jordanian citizenship and remain refugees.

Developments in 2002

Due to the precarious security situation worldwide and the ensuing war on terror, the pace of refugee resettlement slowed down. The United States, Canada, and Australia accepted most of the 209 cases/families, almost all Iraqis, needing resettlement. The caseload of UNHCR-recognized refugees and their assistance needs continued to increase. The Jordanian government continued to restrict Palestinian residents of the West Bank with Jordanian travel documents from entering Jordan, reportedly out of concern that the Israeli army might expel Palestinians from the West Bank en masse. The number of West Bank residents who could cross the Allenby Bridge was limited to 150 per day by the Jordanian authorities, stranding thousands of Palestinians. In normal times, as many as 12,000 cross per day.

In October 2002, King Abdullah announced that he would block any flood of Palestinian or Iraqi refugees into Jordan. His foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, made similar remarks, warning that that Jordan was taking measures to stem any possible movement of Palestinian refugees into Jordan. Officials estimate that as many as 200,000 Palestinians fled the Israeli military assaults, entered Jordan, and have not returned since the uprising against Israeli occupation broke out in September 2000.

As the war against Iraq loomed, the Jordanian government initially announced that it would close its borders if faced with an influx of Iraqi refugees. Later, however, the Jordanian authorities prepared to receive up to 70,000 refugees in two old camps near the Iraqi border.


During 2002, Palestinians in Jordan were the largest group of Palestinians registered in UNRWA's areas of operation, representing 42 percent of all UNRWA-registered cases in 2002. Palestinians in Jordan received by far the best treatment of any the Palestinian populations in UNRWA's areas of operation. Jordan also boasted the lowest percentage of Palestinians living in camps – 18 percent.

Legal Status

Iraqis fleeing political or religious persecution, evading conscription, or escaping economic hardship and the impending war were treated as outcasts. Only about 5,000 a year apply for asylum with UNHCR, and about 15 to 20 percent of those are approved.

Jordan is not a party to the Refugee Convention, but observed the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1998 with the UNHCR. According to the memorandum, Jordan agrees to admit asylum seekers, including undocumented entrants, and to respect UNHCR's refugee status determinations. The memorandum adopts the refugee definition contained in the UN Refugee Convention and forbids refoulement – forced return – of refugees and asylum seekers. For its part, UNHCR is to find third countries within six months to resettle those it determines to be refugees.

As raids and identity checks in Iraqi neighborhoods were stepped up, most of the 300,000 Iraqis in Jordan continued to live in fear of being stopped by police and deported. Iraqis who were considered illegal aliens were deported – especially those between the ages of 18 to 40. The Jordanian authorities also tightened border controls and shortened residency permits.

While Jordan is weak economically, fears another refugee influx, and tries to stay on good terms with its oil-supplying neighbor, Iraq, the existing laws were applied more severely to Iraqis in order to crack down on illegal labor and to deter young Iraqis from evading conscription. Jordanian authorities reportedly send young Iraqi men directly back without the option of going to a third country, such as Yemen, which does not require Iraqis to have visas. As the United States threatened war against Iraq, it became even harder for Iraqis to escape to neighboring Jordan.


Jordan spent around $350 million for humanitarian activities and social services benefiting Palestinian refugees and displaced persons.

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