Iraqi refugees in Jordan
Human rights watch has a new report on the status of Iraqi refugees in Jordan. Well, HRW calls them refugees, but the Jordanian government calls them illegal immigrants. Whatever they are termed, there are an estimated half a million to a million of them in Jordan right now. Anyway, our government spokesman, Nasser Joudeh, responded to the report, decrying what he called “specialization of this organization in Jordan” and saying that the organization should change its name to “Jordan Watch”. I wonder what Batir would think of this?
Joudeh also criticized HRW for calling for assigning “political refugee” status for Iraqis in Jordan. This is funny, because the report makes no such demand. It calls for a system to protect and temporarily settle refugees for Iraq (Iraqi, Palestinian and Iranian Kurds), and afford them free medical care and their children free schooling. No mention of political asylum.
While these demands seem reasonable on their face, given the human dimension of the issue, I appreciate why the government would be reluctant to adopt them. Affording refugee status implies a temporary arrangement. Given Jordan’s history with Palestinian refugees, there is little to assure anybody that a temporary arrangement does not become a long term political, social and economic obligation. Jordan hosts Palestinian refugees from Gaza who do not enjoy Jordanian citizenship. They have been in Jordan for almost 40 years, with no realistic opportunities to return home. Given the feckless way that the international community is dealing with this issue, why should anybody lend themselves to creating a new situation like that of the Gazans in Jordan? I think that we should have learnt our lesson.
Here is what HRW wants
Minimally, Jordan should admit asylum seekers and tolerate the presence of refugees broadly recognized by UNHCR even if it is not able to provide them with a durable solution. It should refrain from rejecting them at the border or deporting them. It should allow them to work and provide them the basic necessities of life required by international human rights standards, including nondiscriminatory access to education and health care. Finally, Jordan needs to speak up and call upon the international community for help to share the enormous refugee burden it tries to ignore by remaining silent. Pretending that the burden does not exist will neither make the problem go away nor absolve Jordan of its responsibilities to protect and assist.
No matter that our public schools are overcrowded and public healthcare is overstretched. Housing costs are skyrocketing. Not only is HRW asking to provide free services to the refugees already here, but it is also asking to let anybody who wants to enter to do so. Presumably, it we do this, the flood gates of funds from international donors will open and the financial burden created by this will be taken off our shoulders.
HRW must think we are stupid.
It is interesting to note that the report mentions that the government has been more restrictive in it’s entry policies since last year’s terror attacks, which were carried out by Iraqis. The report fails to address the legitimate security concerns behind this. Or does this not matter?
While I am totally sympathetic with what Iraqis are going through these days, I doubt that they will be well served by compromising the security and economic and social stability of their neighbors. The burden of solving Iraq’s problem is that of those who created this situation.