Jordan update
13 February 2018

Muhammad and his family from Damascus with two members of the JRS family visit team in Amman, Jordan. (photo: Kristóf Hölvényi/JRS)

Jordan context:

In the midst of a volatile region, Jordan has become an important place of refuge for thousands fleeing the escalating crises in Syria, whilst continuing to host significant numbers of people displaced from Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, who are increasingly forgotten in the face of emerging crises in the region. Though Jordan is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, it has shown initial hospitality and quiet tolerance of a large number of refugees and asylum-seekers. This graciousness has made Jordan a major focal point for thousands fleeing violence in Syria. However, as the conflicts surrounding the nation continue unabated, and international donations ebb, this tolerance is beginning to erode and those displaced from Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen are increasingly forgotten.


According to UNHCR, there are a total of 738,009 peoples of concern in Jordan.  As of 2 January 2018, there are approximately 655,624  registered Syrian refugees in Jordan. 78.7% of Syrians now live in urban areas compared to 21.3% in refugee camps with 185,332 residing in Amman and the immediate surroundings.   Increasing numbers of refugees from Iraq (65,922 ), Yemen (8,512) and Sudan (3,868) continue to live in Jordan.  However, it has been reported that the number of refugees present in the country is considerably larger since the majority are not registered with UNHCR. There are approximately 1.4 million Syrian, 400,000 Iraqi and 30,00 Yemeni refugees as well as additional smaller groups of people of concern currently in Jordan, bringing the total number to almost 2 million.


Catering to the huge unmet needs of the growing refugee population in the country is a major challenge and it is impossible to deny the economic and social challenges brought by the vast numbers of refugees. Unemployment is high among Jordanian youth and many cite concerns that Syrians and other refugees are taking jobs and undercutting wages. In some urban areas, rents have more than doubled. In an attempt to control the impact of refugees on the Jordanian economy and society, in all but a few situations registered refugees are not formally allowed to work. However, beginning in 2016 there was a major shift towards livelihoods opportunities for refugees in Jordan which continued in 2017. In 2017, 25,945 work permits were issued by the government and some 28,000 Syrian refugees are working formally with work permits in certain sectors.  Nevertheless, this opportunity is not open to all refugees and due to insufficient aid and a desire for self-improvement, most are forced to find employment in the informal economy leading to exploitation. Due to these factors, over 80% of Syrian refugees live below the poverty line with 51% of them being children.  


In part due to donor earmarking, UNHCR policies vary between refugee “populations”; support for Syrians is considerably different from that of Iraqis and aid for other groups such as Sudanese and Somalis is virtually non-existent. There are many agencies in Jordan attending to the needs of refugees within the camp. It has consistently been observed during the home visits that have been carried out by JRS Jordan that non-Syrian refugees in urban settings have been and will be forgotten and marginalized from attention and assistance. In addition, attending to the medical needs of refugees who are burdened with disabilities, injuries and chronic diseases remains a huge challenge. This is particularly concerning adequate and equal access to healthcare services.


Provision of aid is woefully insufficient in the face of need and consistently being reduced. Restrictive policies are also used to control the residency and mobility of refugees preventing their access to assistance. In the face of these mounting challenges, many have chosen to risk either return to their homelands or dangerous onward migration by irregular routes than continue living undignified lives in exile.


JRS Jordan Projects:

JRS Jordan works with urban refugees in Amman to provide home visits to vulnerable people. Follow up visit are also provided in order to accompany refugees and provide consistent support and responses to their needs. JRS Jordan provides psychosocial support, referrals and cash assistance for basic and medical needs to urban refugees in Amman.


JRS Jordan also provides higher education opportunities to refugees through its learning centers in Amman. JRS Jordan operates two classroom based learning centers offering various levels of English classes and a Psychosocial Case Management course all certified by Georgetown University in the US. In the online learning center additional courses are offered through partnerships with other educational organizations and students are supported by course facilitators. JRS Jordan strives to provide quality education for life-long learning to those who would not otherwise have the opportunity.

Elizabeth Woods

Project Director of Urban Refugee Support

Jesuit Refugee Service Jordan

Press Contact Information
Cedric Prakash SJ