Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Jordan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Jordan , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 21 January 2018]
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 2003, Jordan hosted more than 155,000 Palestinian refugees from the Gaza Strip registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and more than 7,900 non-Palestinian refugees and asylum seekers registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Of the 3,900 new cases registered during 2003, almost 3,600 were Iraqis. Small numbers of Syrians, Sudanese, and Somalis also arrived in Jordan during the year. An estimated 300,000 Iraqis continued to live in Jordan during 2003 in refugee-like situations although it was unclear how many were refugees.

Palestinians still constitute more than half of Jordan's total population, but Jordan recognizes the vast majority of them as citizens, including some 1.55 million Palestinians registered with UNRWA from the West Bank. In addition, there are about 800,000 displaced from the West Bank by the 1967 Arab-Israeli War who are Jordanian citizens. The U.S. Committee for Refugees no longer counts those with Jordanian citizenship as refugees even though they may be registered with UNRWA. (See "A Refugee is a Refugee," World Refugee Survey 2003, at This statistical methodology has no bearing on the question of what rights, if any, they may be granted pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 or any final status negotiations.) Palestinians from Gaza, on the other hand, are not eligible for Jordanian citizenship and remain refugees.

Developments in 2003

As the United States invaded Iraq, Jordan prepared to assist up to 100,000 arrivals – Iraqi refugees and third-country nationals – fleeing the hostilities. Fearing a repeat of the 1991 Gulf War which sent more than 1.7 million refugees into the Kingdom, Jordan sealed its borders against new refugees.

With a guarantee from the UN that the government would not have to grant asylum to new arrivals, Jordan and UNHCR set up two temporary transit camps near the town of Ruweishid – approximately 70 km from the Iraqi border – to process mostly Asian workers transiting through the country – and Iraqis, who do not require visas to enter Jordan. Authorities opened an additional camp in the no-man's land between the two countries to conduct security clearances of others not allowed to enter the country, including those without transit visas or valid travel documents. Jordan agreed to allow the refugees temporary shelter while UNHCR coordinated repatriation or resettlement options.

In August, Jordanian authorities permitted some 400 Palestinians married to Jordanian women to enter Jordan from Ruweishid. However, two Somali refugees set themselves on fire in September, protesting a lack of response to their asylum requests and damaging a UN building in the camp. Authorities rescued the refugees, who refused repatriation to Somalia and demanded asylum elsewhere.

By year's end, more than 500 refugees – mostly Palestinians, Sudanese, and Somalis – remained in Ruweishid camp. The International Organization for Migration returned ten Somalis and Sudanese to Iraq, and 14 more planned to repatriate after the New Year. UNHCR recognized an additional 90 as refugees and expected to repatriate the rest. Most of the more than 400 Palestinians in the camp carried Iraqi documents, although 26 held Egyptian documents and 3 others had Lebanese papers. Egypt accepted just ten for return, and Lebanon rejected all three. The Palestinians refused to return to Iraq, stating that conditions in the country remained hostile towards Palestinians and the UN could not guarantee their safety.

Stranded in No-man's Land

In a last minute decision, Jordan extended its December 31 deadline to close the Ruweishid camp, shelving plans to transfer the population to the no-man's land camp at al-Karama, between Iraq and Jordan. Nearly 1,200 refugees have been stranded there since April 2003. Most are Iranian Kurds – although some are reportedly members of the Iranian opposition group People's Mojahedin (MEK) – who fled from Iraq's al-Tash camp where they had lived for 23 years. Jordan refuses to admit al-Karama residents into the country, insisting on third-country resettlement, repatriation, or return to Iraq; the Iranians refuse all options but resettlement. Camp residents live in tents, with access to food, clean water, and sanitation, but no electricity and little protection against the elements. Summertime in the desert brought soaring temperatures and dust storms, and in the winter, there was snow, wind, and extreme cold. UNHCR, American, and Australian authorities led the continuing efforts to secure resettlement options for these refugees.

Jordan is not a party to the UN Refugee Convention, but observes the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1998 with the UNHCR governing treatment of asylum seekers and respect for UNHCR's refugee status determinations.

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