Access to Asylum: As of the end of the year, the government, in cooperation with UNHCR, reported more than 633,000 registered Syrian refugees, and hundreds of thousands of additional nonrefugee Syrians in the country. In addition UNHCR registered more than 60,000 other refugees or asylum seekers in the country.
The country’s laws do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government lacked a formal system of protecting refugees. Although it is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention related to the status of refugees or its 1967 Protocol, the government respected UNHCR’s eligibility determinations regarding asylum seekers, including those who entered the country illegally. A 1998 memorandum of understanding, renewed in 2014, between the government and UNHCR contains the definition of a refugee, confirms adherence to the principle of nonrefoulement, and allows recognized refugees a maximum stay of one year, during which period UNHCR must find a durable solution. The time limit is renewable, and, generally, the government did not force refugees to return to their country of origin. As of August 2014, all Syrians in the country are required to obtain an official residency card from the Ministry of Interior. Among the requirements to obtain the new residency card are that all Syrians over the age of 12 must obtain an individual health certificate, which until October cost 30 JD ($42) per person, more than many refugees could afford. In October the fee was dropped to five JD ($7) to encourage more refugees to register with the Ministry of Interior.
The government continued to limit the number of Syrians seeking asylum in the country, as well as the points of entry they may use. Generally, the government restricted entry of Syrians by air despite formal visa-free travel between the countries. Authorities did not allow Syrian asylum seekers, except severe medical cases, to enter along the more populated north-west border of the country. Instead, Syrian refugees seeking entry may only cross at one of the two informal borders crossings along the northeast desert border. The country severely limited the number of refugees able to cross at these informal points. Human Rights Watch reported that in April, 2,500 Syrian refugees had waited for days just inside Jordan’s eastern border to be processed for registration and entrance to the Azraq refugee camp. By December 24, the number of refugees stranded in the border areas near the two informal crossings reached 15,000. Both UNHCR and Human Rights Watch publicly called on the government to grant entry to the refugees, some of whom had been waiting in the border area for at least a month. Many refugees, including the sick, elderly, children, and pregnant women, waited for as long as 120 days without shelter, with limited food and water, and without most medical care to enter the country. An unknown number turned around and returned to Syria. International organizations reported at least 25 refugees died since April from health conditions exacerbated by the harsh conditions at the border. Many Iraqis and Yemenis faced questioning at formal entry points, and many were refused entry.
Refoulement: The government forcibly returned Syrian refugees, including women, children, war-injured, and persons with disabilities to Syria. Human Rights Watch reported that some refugees crossing at informal border crossings in the northeast were brought to the Raba’a Sarhan processing center to be screened, and then forcibly returned to Syria without being registered as refugees or asylum seekers. International organizations also reported that the government carried out a preliminary screening of refugees waiting at the eastern border and prevented some Syrians seeking refuge from entering the country for official processing at Raba’a Sarhan.
The government also returned to Syria some Syrian refugees found working illegally, living in informal tented settlements, or not presenting refugee documentation when moving internally, while forcing others to return to formal refugee camps. Those subjected to refoulement were most often sent to Dara’a Province, where many had no support network or way to return across battle lines to their homes, which were often within regime- or Da'esh-controlled areas.
Early in the Syrian crisis, the government allowed some Palestinian refugees from Syria to enter and remain in the country. During the year the government turned Palestinian refugees from Syria away at the border, although some gained entry. Through November 30, UNRWA was aware of 69 cases of refoulement of Palestinian refugees from Syria. Among those returned were four families, comprising 24 Palestinian refugees from Syria, who had entered the country on Jordanian passports but subsequently lost their Jordanian nationality. The vulnerability of Palestinian refugees from Syria to deportation increased their risk of other abuses. For those who entered the country irregularly (without required documentation, or using Syrian identity documents), refoulement was a constant risk, and access to basic civil services--including renewal of identity documents, the registration of marriages, deaths, and births--was highly complex. UNRWA reported that such activities could result in forced return to Syria, as well as detention and denaturalization.
On December 16, UNHCR and Human Rights Watch reported that the government rounded up more than 800 Sudanese nationals in front of UNHCR offices in Amman. As many as 80 percent of this group may have been refugees and asylum seekers, according to international organizations. The group was held near the airport, during which time a riot broke out. Security forces responded with force and sent 121 Sudanese to the hospital. On December 18, 525 Sudanese, including unaccompanied minors and families children, were sent back to Sudan on four chartered flights.
Employment: Refugees had limited access to the formal labor market, although many worked or ran businesses illegally. A limited number of Iraqi and Syrian refugees received approval for work permits from the Ministry of Labor, but the cost remained prohibitive for most refugees. The government did not uniformly communicate or administer the work permit process.
Few refugees applied for or received work permits due to bureaucratic hurdles and, for Iraqis who entered on visas, a desire to avoid paying significant overstay fines when applying for such permits. The government agreed to waive overstay fines for a small number of Iraqi refugees who qualified for residency. Very few employers of Syrian refugees applied for a work permit due to high cost and bureaucratic hurdles. The government expressed strong resistance to permitting Syrians to work in the country. The Ministry of Labor reported issuing only 6,025 work permits to Syrians in 2014, including Syrians who were not living in the country as refugees.
Because of the difficulties and expenses involved in seeking work authorization, many refugees worked in the unofficial labor market. Government officials estimated that thousands of Syrians worked in the informal economy. The World Food Program reported that 32 percent of 8,000 Syrian households surveyed in July 2014 had one or more employed family members. As of September the Ministry of Labor reported apprehending nearly 18,000 illegal foreign workers, many of them Syrians. There were reports of administrative detentions and deportations of Syrian refugees for working without authorization, as well as reports of Syrian refugees forcibly moved from their areas of employment into one of the refugee camps for working without authorization.
Longstanding Palestinian refugees with Jordanian identity documents were well integrated into the Jordanian workforce. This was not the case, however, for the approximately 140,000 Palestinian refugees originally from Gaza, who are not eligible for Jordanian citizenship and were unable to work legally or access public services. In addition, according to UNRWA Palestinian refugees from Syria, the majority of whom are without Jordanian documents, were deprived of the opportunity to work, and faced arrest and deportation if they sought regular employment.
Access to Basic Services: Syrian refugees who arrived at informal border crossings and were admitted to the country were generally transported to Raba’a Sarhan reception center. Most were registered with the government; received food, water, and medical attention from UNHCR and the ICRC; and were transported by the International Organization for Migration to a refugee camp. Since June 2014 authorities compelled some Syrian refugees, at times numbering as many as 15,000, to remain at the border inside the country beyond an earthen berm in harsh desert conditions. These refugees had adequate food and water provided by international organizations but health and hygiene conditions were inadequate as was access to medical aid and shelter. The stranded population was not permitted to register as refugees. Authorities permitted some international organizations to visit or assess the situation of these refugees, although not regularly. In late December, the government permitted humanitarian agencies to register the stranded population and provide them ration cards, but the government did not recognize them as refugees until they were admitted and registered at Raba’a Sarhan.
The government excluded Palestinian refugees from Gaza who entered the country following the 1967 war from services otherwise available to Palestinian refugees, such as access to public assistance or public medical services. They were eligible to receive UNRWA services.
As of August 31, 15,868 Palestinian refugees from Syria had recorded their presence in country with UNRWA.
The government provided health and educational services to Syrian refugees and other UNHCR-registered refugees. Since December 2014 Syrian refugees have been charged for healthcare at the same rates as uninsured Jordanians, who pay a nominal fee for most basic health services. Iraqi refugees must pay the foreigner’s rate for health care, an increase from the previous rate equal to uninsured citizens. The government continued to provide free primary and secondary education to Syrian refugee children. Iraqi and other refugees must pay to attend government schools. Public schools, particularly in the north of the country, were overcrowded and operated on a double-shift schedule to accommodate the high number of students. UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated 90,000 school-aged Syrians were out of school due to lack of space, high costs for transportation and school supplies, and pressure for children to work to support their families. Refugees had equal access to justice regardless of their legal status, but there was fear of retaliation from Jordanians. Refugees had equal access to housing, although they tended to be charged higher rents than citizens were.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. As of December 17, there were 633,466 Syrian refugees, registered by the government and UNHCR. As of December 15, there were 52,643 Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR. The government tolerated the prolonged stay of many Iraqis and other refugees beyond the expiration of the visit permits under which they had entered the country. As of November 30, there were 8,054 Yemenis, Sudanese, Somalis, and other populations registered with UNHCR and resident in Jordan.