Syrian refugees | Jordan Press | Ammon News

Syrian refugees

[12/11/2012 12:00:00 AM]

By Yusuf Mansur

Jordan, consistent with its humane history and the hospitality of its leadership and people, has been host to Syrian refugees (over 186,000, according to some sources, and the numbers are growing) for several months now.

Aid agencies and some countries have shared some of the burden such mass exodus generates. However, one ponders whether a more humane alternative to the enclosure of such a large group of people may exist, and it does. The alternative is to allow the refugees to work and reside outside the camp(s); it may even prove more economically beneficial not only for the refugees but also for Jordan.

The refugees can be given temporary identification cards and residence permits, which expire upon the day of cessation of hostilities in Syria. The IDs may contain all pertinent information and Jordan has the technological apparatus to satisfy all security concerns. Such IDs would enable refugees to choose to stay in the camp or live elsewhere in the Kingdom.

Refugees can register, as in the case of other guests, with the local authorities in their chosen area of domicile. Of course, some refugees may choose to stay in the camp, which should be permitted, and the current procedures would apply to them with one exception: they should be given the freedom to move in and out of the camp.

Able-bodied adult refugees may want to seek employment in the Kingdom for the time they spend as refugees. Temporary work permits may be issued for periods of three months, renewable automatically upon proof of residence and desire to work/seek employment. In this manner, the refugees will be equated with their brethren who crossed the borders into Jordan from Syria with full identification papers (passports) and necessary documentation.

Aid providers may choose to contribute towards the fees for the work permits and the cost of administering this new influx, a cost that would be a fraction of the one they currently incur. Some aid may still be necessary, yet it should be less than the current level, which aims to cover all sustenance needs of the entire refugee population.

The impact on the Jordanian economy would thus convert from being simply a burden on resources to a demand push in terms of consumption and a factor injection. The refugees that leave the camps and seek employment throughout the Kingdom would increase demand on and consumption of housing, food, other goods and services. Such an increase in demand should prove beneficial to the Jordanian economy.

In addition, the increased labour force would not compete with the domestic labour pool but provide ample competition to other guest workers currently residing in the country, some illegally (according to the Ministry of Labour, of the 500,000 Egyptian workers currently residing in Jordan, only 176,000 are properly registered). This substitution may help regulate the guest labour market painlessly, as guest workers from one country replace those from another country without Jordanian employers suffering the consequences (increase in costs or work stoppage) of losing the unregistered Egyptian workers.

The solution proposed herein is feasible. Its intricacies can be worked out to the satisfaction of all stakeholders, including the security apparatus. Lives could be saved and spared misery, the economy could benefit, and Jordan, a gracious host, would become the envy of the world for its compassion and thoughtfulness.

* Jordan Times

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