«Berlin, September 2010 Foto auf dem Cover: Internally displaced persons in a tent camp in Girdassen, Dahuk gov ernorate in Iraq. © IOM 2007 (Photo: ...»
tion. While Syria channels support to various armed groups in Lebanon, which continue to mount regular attacks against Israel, the latter has conducted assassinations and air raids against targets in Syria as recent as 2007.
The 2006 Israeli war against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon led to a brief refugee crisis in Syria, when thousands of Lebanese fled across the border to escape Israeli bombing raids.
The 2009 bombing of Gaza served to remind Arab states and populations of the continued force and threat of the Israeli army and resulted in large demonstrations across the Arab world. Indirectly, any Israeli military success can have detrimental effects on the social peace in the Levant, as it stirs up Palestinian communities and undermines government legitimacy (as governments are perceived to be failing in their duty to protect the Palestinians, which are considered as fellow Arabs).
4. Migration related security risks in Jordan and Syria This section will provide an overview of the security risks related to Iraqi migration as they present themselves in Syria and Jordan, and an indication of how both states have re sponded.
Due to their differing immigration policies and economic situations, Syria and Jordan have attracted slightly different Iraqi refugee populations; overall the Iraqi community in Jordan is wealthier. One interesting, general question that arises is whether Syria and Jordan should be considered as host or transit states for the Iraqi refugees (indeed, the matter perhaps highlights the general problem with these categories). For all intents and purposes, at least Syria and Jordan have become host states for hundreds of thousands of refugees. However, while both governments are tolerating this situation, legally it remains defined as one of tran sit. The UNHCR in Jordan officially operates under a temporary protection regime, which allows every registered refugee a residency of six months.47 Given the absence of resettle ment options, most refugees have long exceeded this time. Both governments persistently refer to the Iraqis as ‘guests’ or ‘temporary workers’, indicating their unwillingness to inte grate the Iraqis in the long-term. No plan or strategy exists on how to deal with this open question; refugees remain in a frustrating legal limbo. While the question of the Iraqi refu gees’ legal status is of some relevance, especially regarding the international resettlement procedures, it has to be kept in mind that neither Syria nor Jordan have an effective legal apparatus that Iraqi refugees can appeal to regarding their rights as refugees. Neither coun try is signatory to the Geneva Refugee Convention and in the Syrian case, the country is ruled by emergency law that suspends all regular constitutional proceedings. While UNHCR has signed an MOU with the Jordanian government, this MOU only guarantees Iraqis six months temporary protection, which in most cases has long run out. This means effectively, that the ultimate power of decision about the freedom and movement of an Iraqi refugee lies with the executive (this is no different for regular citizens of Syria and Jordan), which applies any ‘official’ rules and regulations randomly.
Further information on the legal status of Iraqi refugees is provided in the separate section on Iraqi human security below.
Olwan, Mohamed Y. 2009. "Iraqi Refugees in Jordan: Legal Perspective." In CARIM Analytic and Synthetic Notes 2009, ed. CARIM. Florence: EUI.
Jordan As mentioned above, no precise figures as to the number of Iraqis currently present in Jor dan exist. The most systematic – but still unreliable – study conducted in May 2007 by the Norwegian NGO Fafo, places the estimate between 450, 000 and 500, 000 Iraqis resident in Jordan, of which 77% arrived after 2003.48 This figure is believed to underestimate the true number, as the study most likely did not capture the poorest refugees. For a country with only 5.5 million inhabitants, this sudden influx of people has placed a huge strain on re sources, social cohesion and the government’s legitimacy.
Despite this, until January 2006, Jordan operated an open door policy for Iraqis, who were not required to obtain particular documentation, other than a passport, to enter. This open door policy ended suddenly in November 2005, after three Iraqi suicide bombers attacked three hotels in Amman and killed 60 people, in addition to themselves. The attack led to se vere entry restriction for Iraqis, and since May 2008, Iraqis have to apply for advance visas from Iraq. Visas are only provided for investors and businessmen, students and employees.
Jordan thus faces a number of security risks related to Iraqi immigration. Below is a summary of the most important.
Economy Jordan is a resource poor country, which has liberalized its economy in the past 20 years, along IMF policy lines. While this has led to an upswing in investment and jobs – Jordan hosts several hundred thousand migrant workers -, this process has also brought about rapid increases in social disparities and an erosion of the middle classes. Economic liberalization has also created a degree of social tension and a loss of legitimacy for the government, which partly bases its politics on equal provision to all its citizens, through a rentier-type economy.
The Jordanian government created a number of tax incentives to foreign investors in the 1990s, from which wealthy Iraqis continue to benefit. Through this, the Jordanian economy has seen a considerable, if not well documented, influx of Iraqi capital. Real estate prices in Amman have increased by 200-300%, benefiting Jordanian landlords, and the capitalization of Jordanian companies reportedly doubled in one year.49 Businesses focused on Iraqi needs (transport, infrastructure, consumption, leisure), partly financed by Iraqi investors, have be come a visible feature of Amman and this economic dynamism has clearly been a boom for Jordan’s economy. Unlike in Syria, where Iraqi businesses remain concentrated in Iraqi neighbourhoods and have experienced harassment, Jordan has thus welcomed Iraqi invest ment and expertise and has been able to gain from it. This situation is helped by Jordan’s infinitely more dynamic economic environment, compared to that of Syria.
The downside of the Iraqi investment is that, as across the region, it has been accompanied by a rise in inflation and increased pressure on public resources; in Jordan, the scarcity of water is the most pressing issue. Even though no firm link between immigration and inflation has been established, it is notable that inflation in Jordan rose from 1.6 % in 2003 to 13.8 % in 2008, and is predicted to rise further.50 Money spent by Iraqis on consumption and an ex cessive focus on buying real estate could be explanations from this phenomenon, which has mostly hit poorer Jordanians, who blame the rise in living costs on the Iraqis.
Such popular grumbling is exacerbated by competition between Iraqis and Jordanians in the labour market, which has led to a reduction in wages, as Iraqis, who are often working and residing illegally, are willing to work for less. This matter, which is reflected in press reports about the growing poverty of ordinary Jordanians, combined with lower economic stability due to liberalization in general, reflects badly on the government and its ability to provide for its citizens. Most recently however, public discontent over the Iraqi presence has lessened.
And while in 2007 there were several demonstrations against the high inflation, more recently there has been no evidence of such activity. Violent popular uprisings or even a destabilizing of the government are regarded as extremely unlikely events by local analysts.51 Domestic Politics The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s is governed by a constitutional monarchy, in which ex ecutive power rests with the king. Multi-party parliamentary elections are held for the 80 member lower house of parliament (the senators of the upper house are selected by the king).
Jordan’s sovereignty has suffered from a number of challenges in the past decades; the most notable and continuing is the presence of around 1.7 million Palestinian refugees on its territory, whose fate is largely in the hands of other governments and UN agencies. The Pal estinian refugees, politically connected to events in Gaza and the West Bank, have in the past been the source of social unrest and war. The Jordanian government has therefore had to deal with a large population, whose behaviour, to an extent, has been directed from abroad or at least by events outside of Jordan’s control. Also, Jordan’s political standing in the region has to an extent depended on the hosting of the Palestinians, both negatively (when Jordan has been judged by the way it treats Palestinians) and positively (through re source transfers by other Arab states, wishing to compensate Jordan for hosting the Pales tinians).
Iraqi immigration has raised fears that Jordan will face a similar issue with yet another refu gee population that will remain in the country for decades, perhaps forever. This fear has translated into a political strategy, which is aimed to ensure that the Iraqis remain firmly under the control of the Jordanian government, rather than being governed by international agencies or agreements. Part of this strategy is the Jordanian government’s persistent re fusal to officially acknowledge the Iraqis as refugees, instead referring to them as ‘guests’ or ‘visitors’. Although Jordan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention in any case, by not acknowledging refugee status of the Iraqis, Jordan is not bound by international refugee law, which would prevent forcible returns and which would transfer governance of the Iraqi refugees largely to the UNHCR.
Despite this official rhetoric, it should be noted that to date, Jordan has generally extended protection to the Iraqis and allows UNHCR (which has only registered a small percentage of the Iraqis) to operate. However by leaving the Iraqis and UNHCR in a legal limbo, Jordan is keeping all its options open and is not relinquishing control.
Interview with an academic/political analyst in Amman in October 2009.
Despite the ‘middle class’ background of most Iraqi refugees in Jordan, the prolonged exile has resulted in a deteriorated financial position for many. The Jordanian government and UNHCR responded to the realisation that a growing number of refugees needed some form of assistance to prevent them from becoming destitute, by allowing more international NGOs to operate and by directly implementing aid programmes respectively. Despite their allevia tion of threatening poverty, the increasingly visible aid programmes however also highlight to the public that the Iraqi presence indeed spells some sort of problem, which the government cannot solve without international help. The Jordanian government has therefore been reluc tant to take or allow for any actions that highlight growing Iraqi poverty. Admitting that the Jordanian government indeed needs outside assistance to deal with the Iraqi refugees em phasizes that they are a burden on an already stretched economy, and makes the govern ment’s immigration policy appear unwise and questionable. The provision of aid for the Iraqis puts them into competition with other Jordanian poor, who also require or desire public assis tance. Acknowledging any form of poverty reflects badly on the government and its ability to provide. While this would be the case in nearly any country, in Jordan, where state-citizen relations are based on patronage relations in which public consent is secured through the distribution of wealth, and in which public discontent cannot be freely expressed, poverty presents a particularly charged political issue. Finally, acknowledging Iraqi poverty also at tracts potentially interventionist, foreign NGOs, whose activities could undermine government control over the refugees.
It is in this light that Jordan’s immigration restrictions on poorer Iraqis and the country’s reluc tance to fund and promote aid programmes focused on the Iraqi refugees should be under stood. While, as detailed below, Jordan now allows Iraqi access to basic health and educa tion services, the government closely monitors international aid efforts and requires that they be extended to other needy communities in Jordan.
Last but not least, there remains the threat of al-Qaeda style organization and attacks ema nating from the Iraqis in Jordan. It should be stressed that in general, Iraqi refugees have fled sectarian and random violence and have not shown interest in replicating these activities abroad. Nevertheless the above-described attacks from November 2005 demonstrate that such risk exists and the possibility of a repetition of such events cannot be excluded. A large scale attack by Iraqis within Jordan could also lead to a significant deterioration in relations between the Iraqi refugees and the rest of the population, which would spell a further threat for social unrest.
Foreign Relations The Iraqi refugees are also of importance to the security of Jordan’s foreign relations, both regionally and globally. Globally, one positive effect has been that Jordan has received wide spread, public praise for hosting such a large number of refugees.52 The hosting of so many direct and indirect victims of the American-led invasion of Iraq also strengthens Jordan’s rela tionship with the US, which provides USD 660 million in aid to Jordan annually. While, like Egypt, Jordan is a US ally, the Iraqi refugees provide Jordan with a potential lever, as it would reflect badly on the US if the plight of Iraqi refugees would drastically worsen. In this – and other ways – Jordan can also use the presence of so many Iraqi refugees as an argu UNHCR Press Release, 12 February 2008, UNHCR chief discusses refugee crisis with Jordan’s King Abdullah and UNHCR Press Release, 8 February 2007, UNHCR chief Guterres praises Syria for generosity to Iraqi refugees.
ment for increased aid payments and other type of resource transfers, from the US, the Iraqi government and other Arab states.
It should be noted that the particularly numerous Iraqi migration into Jordan and Syria has not had a special effect on regional relations, especially compared to the huge effect that the American-led invasion of Iraq has had overall, of which the wider Iraqi migration into many countries of the region forms a small part. As noted before, Iraqi outward migration has been a feature of the region for decades and there are Iraqis scattered across the region, espe cially in Iraq’s neighbouring countries including Turkey and Iran.
However, the Iraqis also present a number of challenges to the security of Jordan’s foreign relations. Firstly, as mentioned above, the Iraqis remain a foreign presence and, while no indication of such developments are currently present, it is not unlikely that at some point Iraqis in Jordan could become politically active and threaten internal stability, as Palestinians have done in the past. As such activism could be influenced either directly by the govern ments of Jordan’s neighbouring states, or indirectly result out of a lack of control and stability in a neighbouring state, Jordan’s government is especially powerless in this regard.
This means that Jordan’s security forces will continuously monitor the Iraqi community, which presents a further a burden on state finances and infrastructure.
Given the instability of Iraq’s government and its need to divert publicity away from its own failings, Jordan could face accusations from Iraq in relations to the policies that it applies to the refugees. Such accusations could include failure to prevent terrorist activity among the Iraqis, or encouraging a brain drain from Iraq or failure to provide enough for the refugees.