U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Jordan



Refoulement/Asylum  There were no reports of refoulement but the Government declared the country closed to new refugees and asylum seekers. According to a 1998 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugees could enter Jordan and remain for six months, after which time their presence became illegal. Non-Palestinians could apply to UNHCR for refugee status determinations (RSDs) although few did so. Prior to the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, Jordan established temporary camps for refugees near the border to expedite UNHCR's efforts to repatriate and resettle Iraqi and other refugees displaced by the war. Following UNHCR's declaration of a global temporary protection regime for Iraqis, UNHCR stopped conducting RSDs for Iraqis.

Although the Government granted temporary asylum to 386 Palestinians from Iraq with Jordanian spouses, authorities demanded that UNHCR resettle or repatriate the remaining border camp residents. Sweden accepted about 400 Iranian Kurds from the group but nearly 750 refugees remained stranded in the no-man's-land camp between Jordan and Iraq, with another 130 (mostly Palestinians) in another camp inside the border. Authorities also refused entry to the no-man's-land area for more than 100 Iranian Kurds who fled fighting around Baghdad in early 2005.

Most Iraqis did not have the documentation necessary for asylum or other legal status applications – including passport renewals, birth, marriage, or death certificates. Despite the fact that most Iraqis could enter Jordan without visas, many eventually found themselves living under the constant threat of arrest and deportation. However, actual expulsion of Iraqis required the personal signature of the Minister of Interior. All but recognized refugees were subject to a fine for each day of any overstay upon exit.

Palestinians from Gaza displaced since 1967 held temporary Jordanian passports without national identity numbers, valid for two years. In September, Jordan granted them residence cards valid for identification only.

Detention  There were no reports of detention related specifically to refugee or asylum status. In March, in Al-Wihdat refugee camp near the capital Amman, authorities broke up a protest of Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Yassin, claiming the demonstration was unlicensed. The media reported more than 60 detainees, while human rights activists cited more than two hundred. Member of Parliament Tayseer Al-Fitiani was among the arrested and claimed that police beat him at the police station.

Iraqis and other entrants whose temporary status exceeded the six-month deadline set by the MOU were subject to detention and/or deportation for illegal residence. The Government allowed ICRC to visit security detainees. Jordan granted refugees under UNHCR's mandate access to courts and legal assistance on par with nationals, under the terms of the MOU.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  The MOU stated that a legally resident refugee may "work for his own account whenever the laws and regulations permit" and conditioned the right to practice professions on the same requirement. The 1996 Labor Law required non-Jordanians to obtain work permits from the Ministry of Labor showing that the job required experience or skills unavailable among Jordanians, with preference to Arabs. Employers were required to pay a fee and permits were valid for one year or less. Violations were subject to cumulative fines and expulsion of the foreign worker at the employer's expense. All bearers of temporary passports – including Palestinians displaced from Gaza since 1967 – had to obtain permits to work legally. Jordan's union by-laws did not allow noncitizens to join.

According to Jordan's Investment Promotion Law, foreigners could not own more than a half interest in enterprises in mining, trade and retail operations, and construction contracting. Temporary passport holders had to obtain ministerial permission and find a Jordanian partner to own property. Few refugees took advantage of these restricted rights largely due to their irregular residence status.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  Jordan generally allowed refugees and asylum seekers freedom of movement and the legal right to choose their place of residence, with the exception of the non-admitted refugees in the Ruweishid and no man's land camps at the Iraqi border. About 300,000 Palestinians (including Jordanian citizens of Palestinian descent) lived in camps throughout the country. They were free to leave but UNRWA conditioned education and healthcare benefits on proof of residence in the camps. More than fifty squatter settlements in mostly urban areas housed Palestinians ineligible for UNRWA status, including some of the Gazan population. Gazans held temporary Jordanian passports renewable every two years, as well as cards for crossing between the East and West Bank, subject to Israeli closures and other restrictions.

Public Relief and Education  Jordan allowed enrollment in Jordanian schools only to children of legally resident Iraqi asylum seekers. A royal decree issued in 1998 allowed children of undocumented migrants to enroll in schools but required a certificate from their previous school. Few asylum seekers had such certificates.

Palestinians who could prove residence in a refugee camp could attend UNRWA and government schools and seek treatment in UNRWA healthcare facilities. However, Palestinians from Gaza holding temporary Jordanian passports had to pay school fees in foreign currency where applicable and also a fee for health services. Public hospitals and health centers treated patients regardless of status, but non-Jordanians paid higher fees than citizens. Palestinians displaced from Gaza since 1967 did not enjoy social security benefits, healthcare, public education, or other social services that Palestinian citizens of Jordan enjoyed. Access to social security benefits depended on reciprocal privileges in the worker's country of origin, rendering stateless Palestinians ineligible.

Jordan did not allow unimpeded humanitarian access but UNHCR had operated in Jordan since 1991, and numerous humanitarian agencies provided services to refugees and asylum seekers.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  About 240,000 Palestinians of Jordanian nationality fled the West Bank in 1967 and registered as displaced persons in Jordan. USCRI estimated that about 70 percent or 168,000 remained. This was much lower than the 800,000 figure counted in 2003 but reflected USCRI's decision not to count descendents of IDPs who had never been displaced themselves unless they lacked protection due to their parents displacement. There were no reports that any had returned or reintegrated.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants


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