UNHCR: Access to work ‘improving’ for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Published April 26th, 2016 - 09:05 GMT
The UNHCR has praised a recent move by the Jordanian government to ease restrictions on Syrians working in Jordan. (File photo)
The UNHCR has praised a recent move by the Jordanian government to ease restrictions on Syrians working in Jordan. (File photo)

Access to jobs is improving for Syrian refugees in Jordan, according to the UN Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which said that recent government measures have led to the legal employment of 78,000 Syrian workers in the short term and thousands more in the coming years.

The UNHCR, which welcomed the Jordanian government’s efforts on the issue, said these measures would help Syrian refugees become more self-sufficient and would significantly ease the way for Syrian refugees to work legally in Jordan.

Early this month, Jordan's Labor Ministry gave Syrians, most of whom who work in the country without permits, a three-month period to rectify their situation as a step to legalize their employment. The ministry has previously said there are some 90,000 Syrians in the country’s job market, with fewer than 5,000 holding work permits. 

There are some 1.3 million Syrians in Jordan, according to government figures.

Over 640,000 Syrian refugees are registered with UNHCR in Jordan, with more than 85 percent of whom are living outside of camps. A recent study showed that 90 percent of Syrians living outside camps live below the Jordanian poverty line of $87 per capita per month, according to UNHCR.  

“The 90-day grace period potentially puts Syrian refugees on the same footing as migrant workers who are allowed to work in jobs such as construction, agriculture, the service industry, food and beverages, wholesale and some factories,” the UNHCR said in a statement on its website.

Following the London donor conference in February, the government announced that donor countries pledged millions of dollars to help Jordan cope with the Syrian refugee crisis in the form of grants and cheap loans, while the Kingdom has pledged to integrate Syrians into the labor market. 

The government’s recent decision is good news for employers too, the UNHCR said.

“For employers of Syrians, the new grace period also allows them to legalize workers and avoid steep fines of between $280 and $2,100 which were imposed previously and have seen the closure of some 70 businesses to date,” the UNHCR said.

The agency said since the beginning of March, Jordanian authorities have also allowed Syrian refugees to use UNHCR-issued asylum-seeker cards and Jordanian Ministry of Interior identity cards to obtain work permits. Previously, the only way to do so was using a passport and proof of legal entry into the country. As most Syrian refugees could not meet these requirements, many were precluded from having jobs.

UNHCR has long been advocating for more support to Jordan and other key refugee hosting countries, including better access to development funds and low interest loans. 

A major factor in supporting Jordan’s new measures is the World Bank’s commitment to providing Jordan with near zero percent loans of  $300-$500 million tied to indicators like the granting of work permits to Syrian refugees, the agency said.

Earlier this month the UNHCR launched a pilot project to help 2,000 Syrians get jobs in the export garment sector, as a partner of the “Better Work Jordan” programme run by the International Labour Organisation. 

By Mohammad Ghazal 

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