For Iraqi refugees in Amman, kindness, support and an application to Australia

Drawings by Iraq refugees on the wall of the Collateral Repair Project, Amman. ( photo: Alice Rothchild)
Fourth in series of reports from Dr. Alice Rothchild in Amman, Jordan after attending the Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance Annual conference.

By  Alice Rothchild| Mondoweiss | May 8, 2019

Because of the concentration of Iraqi residents in Amman, many citizens blame them for rising prices for real estate, food, rent, and overcrowded schools and health care institutions, shortages of electricity and water. While there are other important contributors and the refugees are not a net drain on the country’s resources, they have seriously stretched some resources and services.

Tuesday March 26, 2019

We wait 45 minutes for an Uber to arrive and drive us to the Collateral Repair Project which is located across town in the poor neighborhood of Hashemi. There we meet with Jessica Miller, a dedicated, fast talking woman who tells us that the Collateral Repair Project was started in 2006 by two American women for Iraqi refugees. At that time, many Iraqi refugees were fleeing to Jordan. Some of the Iraqi families that came to Jordan with savings may have settled on the West side of Amman, where housing and the cost of living tended to be more expensive. However, many of those who came without such financial backing or quickly ran out of savings, unable to legally work, moved into neighborhoods in East Amman like Hashemi Shamali. CRP is located in this neighborhood which is home to many low income Jordanians and refugees from Iraq and Syria.

Clearly I need to get a quick education on the topic of Iraqi refugees and with a bit of googling, I find that by 2008 more than 4.2 million Iraqis (one in seven) had been displaced from their country, with an estimated 800,000 in Jordan (which has a total population of six million, just for perspective). (JAMA. 2008;299(14):1713-1715. doi:10.1001/jama.299.14.1713) These numbers are consistent with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which has estimates of 750,000 to one million Iraqi refugees in Jordan. This is all complicated by the fact that the Jordanian government insists that Iraqis are “guests” rather than refugees, (therefore the state has no responsibility for their welfare), and that many of the refugees were middle class urbanites who fled to Jordan’s cities and may have gotten lost in the counting. Those who did register with UNHCR received asylum-seeking cards and were thus able to receive (an inadequate amount of) humanitarian assistance from the UN and NGOs. A large percentage, (possibly a majority), of Iraqi refugees have no legal status at all.

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