Cablegate: Few Iraqis in Jordan Working; Many Running Out of Funds

DE RUEHAM #1049/01 1011141
P 101141Z APR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Few Iraqis in Jordan Working; Many Running Out of Funds

REFS: A) Amman 927
B) Amman 639
C) Amman 563
D) Amman 486
E) 07 Amman 4575
F) 07 Amman 3752

Sensitive but unclassified; please protect accordingly. Not for
internet distribution or use outside the USG.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Iraqis in Jordan have long relied on personal
savings and remittances from families in Iraq or abroad to make ends
meet, but rising inflation, the end of subsidies, and uncertainty
about the length of their tenure in Jordan have contributed to a
steady deterioration of their financial conditions. This downturn
has amplified Government of Jordan concerns about the continued
presence of Iraqi refugees and their increasing reliance on
government-subsidized services in health and education. While some
Iraqi doctors, medical professionals, engineers, and others are
employed, most are jobless. Despite difficult living conditions in
Jordan, Iraqis are not returning home in large numbers, in part due
to historic GOJ policies that demanded "over-stay fees" upon
departure and imposed permanent bans on reentry. The GOJ recently
waived fees for Iraqis departing Jordan, but thus far very few
Iraqis are taking advantage of the fee waiver, and UN and NGO
observers believe that few will do so. END SUMMARY.

Life in Jordan Becoming More Difficult for Iraqis
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) Only 22 percent of Iraqi adults of working age in Jordan
hold jobs, according to a survey by the Norwegian not-for-profit
organization Fafo. The report, released in December 2007, further
noted that the majority of Iraqis were living on savings or
remittances from Iraq or abroad, "making them particularly
economically vulnerable." Iraqi Ambassador to Jordan Saad al-Hiyani
told EconOffs in mid-March that the savings of many of the
lower-income Iraqis in Jordan were beginning to run out. Several
prominent Iraqis from the Hashimi al-Shamali region in Eastern Amman
(identified by the Iraqi Embassy in Amman as the area of the largest
Iraqi population in Jordan) reported in January that most of the
residents were not employed, and were dependent upon support sent by
relatives living abroad. These individuals asserted that in
general, Iraqis are not seeking employment due to fears of being
identified by the GOJ and then being at risk for deportation.
Despite the persistent fear of deportation, according to UNHCR,
ICRC, and the GOJ, very few Iraqis have been deported and UNHCR High
Commissioner Gutteres praised the GOJ's commitment to non-refoulment
during his February visit (Ref D).

3. (SBU) The Assistant Secretary General of the Ministry of Social
Development told EconOffs in February that 10-15 Iraqi children were
arrested each month for begging or working illegal odd jobs, and
local leaders in the Hashimi al-Shamali region have reported cases
of prostitution, something uncommon in Amman. Additionally,
officials from the Central Bank of Jordan told EconOffs they have
seen evidence of a decline in savings at Jordanian banks by Iraqi
individuals. NOTE: An applicant's nationality must be reported
when first opening an account. END NOTE. Representatives from many
NGOs which work with Iraqis -- including Save the Children, CARE,
ICMC, and Mercy Corps -- similarly report that Iraqi families they
work with are running out of savings, with many dependent on their
children's employment for income.

Education Has Limited Impact on Livelihood

4. (SBU) The Fafo study indicated that Iraqis in Jordan are
generally well educated, but education makes little difference
because of employment restrictions, causing many highly educated
Iraqis to remain unemployable. Officials at the Jordanian Ministry
of Higher Education told EconOffs the ministry has been becoming
increasingly "less tolerant" toward accrediting degrees issued in
Iraq after discovering a number of fake degrees, even for critical
professions such as medicine. Therefore, the Ministry, beginning in
2005, placed a ban on certifying Iraqi degrees, sometimes even
retroactively applying it to degrees previously approved. Iraqis
have been successful, however, in finding employment in
undersubscribed fields. MHE reported in 2007 that 718 Iraqis were
working as college professors at Jordanian universities. The
majority of these Iraqi professors hold degrees from major U.S. and
European universities and teach in fields suffering from professor
shortages such as computer science, information technology, and
mathematics. Some Iraqi academics have found employment through the
Scholar Rescue Fund run by the Institute for International Education
(IIE). As of March 28, the SRF had placed 9 Iraqi scholars at
Jordanian universities, and confirmed 9 others for future placement,
while 7 additional applications are under examination; a total of 89
Iraqis have been approved by the SRF selection committee for

AMMAN 00001049 002 OF 003

worldwide placement.

Iraqis in the Work Force

5. (SBU) Officials of the Jordanian Medical Association (JMA)
recently told EconOffs that Iraqi doctors should be able to practice
freely in Jordan because of an MOU signed in the 1980s with Iraq
that requires only legal residency and a sponsoring medical
facility. They added that work permits are more often approved for
Iraqis seeking medical careers than in other fields because there is
demand for qualified professionals to fill critical vacancies. This
is also true for some medical specialists, such as nurses,
radiologists, and laboratory technicians, who are all subject to
similar licensing procedures. Ministry of Health officials told
EconOffs that out of 1,266 Iraqi doctors listed as licensed by the
JMA, only an estimated 400 are actually practicing in Jordan.
COMMENT: This discrepancy is likely due to difficulty in obtaining
valid residency permits; officials from the Department of Residency
and Borders in the Ministry of Interior informed EconOffs in January
that issuance of permanent residency permits requires large cash
investments or real estate ownership, as well as current, legal
residency. END COMMENT.

Restrictions on Employment of Iraqis

8. (SBU) Working legally in Jordan can be difficult because the GOJ
requires Iraqis seeking work permits to have a valid residency
certificate. Out of a population estimated at 480,000-500,000 in
the Fafo report, only 30 percent of all adults -- 50 percent of the
male and 15 percent of the female population -- were actually
employed. NOTE: The Fafo study indicated that 70 percent of the
Iraqis residing in Jordan were of working age, i.e., age 15 and
older. END NOTE. A 2007 Ministry of Labor (MOL) report, however,
showed that only 1,645 Iraqis held legal, current work permits.

9. (SBU) In a catch-22, Iraqis, like several other nationalities
residing in Jordan, often must first have employment to obtain
residency. MOL Assistant Secretary General Saleh Khreis explained
that a residency permit did not automatically grant permission to
work, that foreign nationals must already be legal residents in
order to obtain work permits, and that both residency and work
permits need to be re-verified and renewed annually. As a result,
many Iraqis simply work illegally. Khreis said MOL always held a
forgiving attitude toward violations, but recently had been forced
to adopt a much stricter enforcement policy because of several
recent "serious" problems, such as Iraqis in medical positions with
outdated work permits. Khreis reported that most Iraqis worked odd
jobs such as peddling cheap items and food on the streets, which, he
claimed, posed additional risks to public health, food safety, and
consumer rights.

Growing Concerns about Impact of Cash-Strapped Iraqis
--------------------------------------------- --------

10. (SBU) The deteriorating financial condition of the Iraqi
community in Jordan has amplified GOJ concerns about the continued
presence of Iraqi refugees. UNHCR Representative in Jordan Imran
Riza reported that Jordanian officials had expressed concerns to him
regarding the growing Iraqi dependence on international aid, fearing
"it gives them a reason to remain in Jordan." Feda Ghribeh, Head of
the Iraqi Coordination Unit at the Ministry of Planning and
International Cooperation, also mentioned GOJ fears that cashless
Iraqis would depend more and more on government-subsidized services,
particularly education and healthcare, further burdening the system.
Ghribeh added that Jordanian security agencies are also concerned
about the potential for increased crime rates as the financial
conditions of the Iraqis worsen.

Despite Hardships, Most Do Not Seem Eager to Leave
--------------------------------------------- -----

11. (SBU) The GOJ expects (and hopes) the majority of Iraqis will
eventually return home or depart for a third country. To facilitate
this, the GOJ announced in January 2008 a waiver of portions of the
penalties assessed on those who over-stay (refs C and D).
Nonetheless, despite their hardships, diminishing savings, and
inability to work, Iraqis are not leaving in any great numbers.
According to the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, UNHCR and other NGOs, as
well as members of MNF-I Civil Affairs Liaison Team (CALT) assigned
to Embassy Amman who have regular access to both sides of the
border, there are several reasons for this lack of exodus, including
on-going concerns regarding the security situation in Iraq, a lack
of confidence in the Iraqi Government, uncertainty regarding the new
Jordanian visa system, as well as hope for eventual third country
resettlement (which they are more likely to obtain while in Jordan
than while in Iraq). Because of these reasons, most Iraqis in
Jordan seem determined to remain -- at least for the time being --

AMMAN 00001049 003 OF 003

right where they are.

Visit Amman's Classified Website at:


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