Jordan deported three refugees to Iraq, after lengthy detentions, despite objections raised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A court convicted one of dealing drugs, and then deported him, while the Government deported the other two based on allegations UNHCR could not specify. Jordan also deported 121 asylum seekers, mostly Iraqis, only informing UNHCR afterwards, and likely deported many more.
In May, the Government closed the no-man's-land reception camp between the Jordanian and Iraqi borders, and moved the 151 Palestinians and 464 Iranian Kurds formerly encamped in Ramadi, Iraq to the camp in Ruweished, Jordan. The Government refused entry, however, to 200 Iranian Kurds from Ramadi in 2006. They remained on the border in March 2006. A total of 180 Palestinian refugees from Iraq were stuck on the border by April 2006, when Syria agreed to accept them.
According to a 1998 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UNHCR, asylum seekers could remain in Jordan pending status determination, and mandate refugees could remain six months after recognition, during which time UNHCR was obliged to find resettlement countries for them. This was not always possible, but the Government generally did not deport them. Non-Palestinians could apply to UNHCR for refugee status although few did so due to long waits for interviews. Jordan began the year with 5,800 pending claims and only passed a decision on 250 cases finishing the year with 16,000 pending claims.
Following UNHCR's declaration of a global temporary protection regime for Iraqis, the agency stopped conducting refugee status determinations for Iraqis although it did continue to register them as asylum seekers. There were some 750,000 Iraqis in the country, including as many as 300,000 who had been there before the fall of the Hussein regime in Iraq. Most were without legal status, and the Government declared the temporary protection regime invalid. The Government also refused entry to a significant number of Iraqis.
Nearly a thousand refugees from Iraq, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Egypt awaited resettlement. Jordan allowed 90 Chechens to remain indefinitely pending repatriation. The Government also granted temporary protection to more than 600 Sudanese, Bangladeshis, Nigerians, and Turks fleeing Iraq en route home and helped more than 900 Iraqis repatriate, mostly from Europe.
Most Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank were Jordanian citizens (and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants did not count them as refugees). Palestinians who left the Gaza Strip in 1967 and their descendents, on the other hand, had only temporary Jordanian passports valid for two years and without national identity numbers.
Refugees reported a few assaults during the year but none serious. In April, electrical wiring in the tents in Ruweished camp caused a fire that killed a three-year-old child and seriously burned her mother and another refugee.
Detention/Access to Courts
Authorities detained at least 191 persons of concern to the UNHCR for illegal entry, presence, or work. The agency had access to them and was able to bail out 70 of them, pending refugee status determinations, but the Government deported the others. Although UNHCR continued to issue documentation to Iraqi asylum seekers, the police did not respect such documents. In September 2005, Jordan granted Palestinian refugees residence cards valid for identification only.
Refugees and asylum seekers could not challenge administrative detention in court and bail was only available in judicial detentions with judges' discretion. The MOU and Jordanian law provided for refugees' and asylum seekers' access to courts and legal assistance on par with nationals, but few asylum seekers availed themselves of access because of their illegal residency.
Freedom of Movement and Residence
Refugees in Ruweished camp were not allowed to leave except for medical appointments and then only under police escort. Other refugees were not subject to the same restriction, but under the Residence and Foreigner's Act all foreigners had to notify the authorities of their residence and any movement. About 300,000 Palestinians (including Jordanian citizens of Palestinian descent) also lived in camps throughout the country, a prerequisite for receiving health services from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and education from UNRWA or the Government. More than fifty squatter settlements in mostly urban areas housed Palestinians ineligible for status with UNRWA, 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.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
The 1996 Labor Law required non-Jordanians to have legal residency and valid passports and to obtain work permits from the Ministry of Labor in order to work. The permit required showing that the job required experience or skills unavailable among Jordanians, with preference to Arabs but no exceptions for refugees and asylum seekers. Employers were required to pay a fee, permits were valid for one year or less, and authorities did not grant them with status determination. Violators were subject to cumulative fines and expulsion of the foreign worker at the employer's expense. During the last three months of the year, there was an upsurge in arrests and detention of refugees for illegal employment.
Bearers of temporary passports, including Palestinians displaced from Gaza since 1967, also required work permits. Such Palestinians could work for the Government but only on a contractual basis. Jordanian law did not permit foreigners to join unions but its labor laws did generally apply to non-citizens. Access to social security benefits depended on reciprocal privileges in the worker's country of origin, rendering stateless Palestinians ineligible.
The MOU provided that a legally resident refugee could work "for his own account whenever the Laws and regulations permit" and conditioned the right to practice professions on the same requirements.
According to Jordan's Investment Promotion Law, foreigners could not own more than a half-interest in enterprises in mining, trade and retail, 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 lack of residence status.
Public Relief and Education
Jordan did not aid refugees and asylum seekers but UNHCR, UNRWA, national institutions, and nongovernmental organizations did, and had access to refugees. The Government refused to enroll Iraqi children in public schools unless they were legal residents or UNHCR recognized them as refugees. In September, the Minister of Interior barred private schools from enrolling Iraqi children whose parents lacked residency permits. Public hospitals and health centers treated patients regardless of status, but non-Jordanians paid higher fees than citizens. Palestinians refugees did not enjoy medical services, public education, or other social services that Palestinian citizens of Jordan enjoyed. Palestinians from Gaza holding temporary Jordanian passports had to pay school fees in foreign currency where applicable and also a fee for medical services. Universities restricted foreign students with quotas and required them to pay twice as much as nationals.