Jordan may not be supporting quite the number of Iraqi refugees previously estimated by international aid agencies. A report released Friday has counted slightly less than a half-million Iraqis living in Jordan.
Disturbed by figures that it had three-quarters of a million Iraqi refugees living within its borders, Jordan earlier this year requested the Norway-based FAFO Institute for Applied International Studies undertake a six-month study of the issue.
“While figures as high as one million or about 16 percent of the total population have been aired, this study concludes that there are between 450,000 and 500,000 Iraqi residents in Jordan as of May 2007,” according to FAFO’s managing director, Jon Pedersen.
FAFO determined that most Iraqis who have settled in Jordan moved from Baghdad, fleeing sectarian violence in 2004 and 2005, and the majority have settled in Amman.
The survey estimates that 68% of Iraqis living in Jordan are Sunni Muslims, 17% are Shi’a Muslims, and twelve percent follow the Christian faith.
Roughly 40% report they intend to return to Iraq, though 95% of those insist they will not go home until the situation has stabilized. About one in five report having concrete plans to relocate to a third country.
While most of those who fled to Jordan are educated and were middle-class or higher when they arrived, years of living on savings and the lack of employment opportunities has caused a sharp decline in their status.
Only about 22% have found regular employment--or about 30% of the Iraqi population of working age--while the rest remain unemployed. Of those who work, 60% work for someone else, though 30% of working Iraqi men report having employees, and 13% of working Iraqi men say they are self-employed.
The situation is slightly different for women, who head one out of every five Iraqi households in Jordan. Only about 15% of those of working age are employed, and of those, roughly 70% are employed by someone else, while 25% report being self-employed.
Those struggling to support their families often have relatives outside the country sending money, with the study estimating 42% is sent from people still living inside Iraq.
Jordan recently implemented a new border policy in attempt to stem the flow of Iraqi refugees into its country, complaining that supporting those fleeing the war has cost an average of nearly $16 billion annually.
Read the full report here: Iraqis_in_Jordan.pdf