Cablegate: Iraqi-Palestinians Face Hardship in Jordan

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) The 386 Iraqi-Palestinians who were permitted to
leave Ruweished refugee camp in August and reside in Jordan
are seeking U.S. help. They want to regularize their status
in Jordan or leave for a third country. The families have
only limited access to humanitarian assistance and are unable
to obtain work permits, so none have a steady income and most
depend on charity and even begging. 345 Iraqi-Palestinians
without ties to Jordan remain in Ruweished camp, which the
GOJ has pledged to close by the end of the year. End Summary.

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2. (U) Representatives of the 386 Iraqi-Palestinians (86
families) who left Ruweished refugee camp on the Iraq-Jordan
border and entered Jordan (ref) met with poloff and refasst
on December 16 to request U.S. help in regularizing their
status. They said that since their arrival in Jordan on
August 26, neither UNHCR nor UNRWA has registered them
officially as refugees, and none have a regular source of
income. According to the GOJ's Department of Palestinian
Affairs (DPA), the Palestinian Authority (PA) has agreed to
issue Palestinian passports to the refugees. While the women
in this group hold Jordanian citizenship and therefore are
entitled to certain GOJ-provided services, their husbands and
children are ineligible. The DPA says that once these
Iraqi-Palestinians are issued PA passports, the GOJ can then
grant them residency passports, and possibly a two-year
temporary Jordanian passport (a standard procedure for Gaza
Palestinians) that entitle them to live in Jordan. However,
the temporary passport does not give them access to
government services or the right to work in the public
sector. In addition, their children cannot study in public

3. (SBU) The Iraqi-Palestinians told poloff and refasst
that, according to the Palestinian embassy in Amman, their
new PA passports would not have a national Palestinian number
required for Palestinian citizenship. For this reason, the
refugees believe the passport "would not be better than an
Iraqi travel document." Consequently, many of the refugees
did not apply for it, and even those who had applied are
still waiting to receive the passports. Obtaining a national
number requires Israeli approval, but the Director of Refugee
Affairs in the Palestinian embassy told refasss that the PA
has not approached the Israelis to obtain national numbers
for the refugees. He said UNHCR, with PA approval, had
requested Israeli permission to repatriate the refugees to
the West Bank, but they are not optimistic it would be
granted. The GOJ has also asked the GOI to permit their
repatriation to the West Bank, but the Israeli Embassy told
us the GOI is unlikely to provide any formal response to this


4. (U) While their legal issues are being sorted out, the
386 Iraqi-Palestinians have only limited access to
humanitarian assistance. UNRWA has issued one-year
registration cards that entitle the refugees and their
families to receive UNRWA education and health services only,
but the refugees have only limited access to GOJ services.
The refugees' representative confirm that all school age
children are attending school. DPA is able to provide
services only to those refugees who settled in or near the
camps. Those who live far away from the camps have to depend
on their Jordanian wives to access government services.

5. (U) Most of the families lived temporarily with
relatives upon arrival in Jordan, but now most are on their
own, renting rooms in Amman, Zarqa and Irbid and are mainly
dependent on handouts and the earnings from random odd jobs
with low pay. They say that initial cash donations of 500
USD per family from the PA have been spent, and without a
regular source of income, they are dependent on charity to
get by. The representatives noted that not all the families
received this amount, which was authorized by Yassir Arafat
after the group sent him a letter requesting help, because
the embassy apparently ran out of money. They said that
similar letters to King Abdullah and President Bush went

6. (U) Lacking status in Jordan means the refugees cannot
find steady work, and according to the refugees, is the major
source of their frustration. Many of the refugees were
successful businessmen and professionals in Iraq before the
war, but left everything behind to enter Jordan. One
representative of the group said he worked for the Swedish
embassy in Baghdad for 12 years before opening his own
businesses after the Gulf war. Job prospects for
undocumented workers in Jordan are bleak: one refugee
reported that he managed to secure a hauling job for a week
during Ramadan at an olive oil factory earning 9JD per day,
but the hours were long (5 am to 8 pm).

7. (U) Representatives of the refugees say the families are
approaching different charitable societies (including
al-Hashimiyyat Charitable Foundation) for food and cash
assistance, but financial assistance has been hard to come
by. Consequently, some families are sending their children
to the streets and to the mosques to beg. The refugees say
they hesitate to complain about the meager rations in the
handouts they receive, knowing that their countrymen still
stuck at Ruweished are suffering even more, particularly now
that cold rainy weather has set in.

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8. (U) Representatives of the group say that five families
(20 individuals) are so frustrated with their situation in
Jordan that they are seeking to return to Iraq. The
financial hardships -- given their inability to work legally
and regularly due to their lack of status -- appears to be
the main concern. These families believe they will find
better work opportunities and more support from their
immediate family members who stayed in Baghdad versus their
current situation in Jordan.

9. (U) However, the representatives are counseling the five
families -- who they say are mainly headed by young impatient
males or widows -- against this option. Contacts in Iraq are
advising the refugees against returning to Iraq given the
dismal security situation. They are particularly concerned
about revenge attacks from Iraqi Shi'a who have long-resented
the perceived favored status of the Palestinian community in
Iraq. They said that many Shi'a erroneously believed that
the regime gave the Palestinians special privileges under the
guise of supporting the Palestinian national cause. However,
the representatives say that before 2002, Palestinians had
few of the rights enjoyed by ordinary Iraqi citizens,
including the right to obtain an Iraqi passport, work in the
public sector, or buy a house.

10. (U) The majority of the refugees say they would like to
obtain Jordanian passports or be resettled in a third country
or the West Bank. One of the refugees' representatives said
that the war has provided Palestinians in Iraq -- most of
whom trace their roots to Haifa -- the first opportunity in
more than 50 years to leave Iraq, and they do not wish to
return. "I would accept citizenship anywhere else, even
Mars," declared one, "but not in Iraq. This is our
opportunity to end our life as a refugee, and give our
children something better." He said that in the initial
discussions with the UNHCR, they had offered to give up their
children if it meant the children could get citizenship in a
third country and they could not.


11. (SBU) While difficult, the conditions of these
Iraqi-Palestinians who have Jordanian spouses is better than
those of the 345 Iraqi-Palestinians who remain at Ruweished
Camp -- which the GOJ has publicly pledged to close at the
end of this year -- and who have few resettlement options,
other than return to Iraq.

Visit Embassy Amman's classified web site at or access the site
through the State Department's SIPRNET home page.

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