AP Interview: Jordan mulls opening jobs to Syrian refugees

AP News
Posted: Jun 08, 2015 3:00 PM
AP Interview: Jordan mulls opening jobs to Syrian refugees

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan is studying the possibility of allowing Syrian refugees to work in sectors typically filled by migrant workers, even as the country has reached a "saturation point" of absorbing newcomers, its planning minister said.

International donors have called on host countries such as Jordan to put more refugees to work as aid dwindles. Close to 4 million Syrians have fled since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011, including 630,000 who settled in Jordan.

Host countries and international agencies asked for over $8 billion for 2015 to address the crisis, but funding gaps remain large.

Jordan asked for $3 billion for this year, but expects to receive only about 30 percent, Planning Minister Imad Fakhoury told The Associated Press.

"We are at the point where our resilience, our absorption capacity, the patience of the citizens, has been stretched to the limit," he said Sunday. "Jordan is at the saturation point."

Providing sufficient support for Jordan will be cheaper than dealing with chaos later, he said.

"I think it will be much more costly if the world does not support Jordan and then the world has to intervene later on to deal with the repercussions," he said. "You can see what happens in the Mediterranean in terms of boats, or you could see what happens in terms of terrorism threats and security threats."

The vast majority of refugees live in Jordanian communities where they compete with Jordanians for housing and jobs, driving up rents and pushing down wages.

Even before the Syria crisis, Jordan struggled with high unemployment. It employs large numbers of migrants, particularly from Egypt, in construction and agriculture.

Fakhoury said about 120,000 Syrians, including those who came before 2011 work in Jordan, most without permits. In the past, Jordan has been reluctant to formalize Syrian refugee labor.

Asked Sunday about putting Syrians to work, he said that the government now is studying "policies that will hopefully open up possibilities for Syrians in imported labor categories." However, the priority remains to keep Jordanians in their jobs, he said.