Iraqi Refugees Stuck in Transit

By Patterson, Margot | National Catholic Reporter, April 29, 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Iraqi Refugees Stuck in Transit

Patterson, Margot, National Catholic Reporter

AMMAN, JORDAN * For almost five years now, Ekram Muqdad Aboes has lived in Jordan, scratching out a living as best he can. A photographef, cameraman, graphic designer and actor, the 25-year-old Iraqi refugee left his home in the city of Nainawa in northern Iraq when his 15-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister were murdered after they telephoned the U.S. Army to report seeing a bomb.

His parents are internal refugees inside Iraq, and Aboes said he doesn't have their telephone number and hasn't spoken to them for a year. In Jordan, as in most host countries, refugees have few opportunities for legal employment. Aboes has a part-time job at a TV station. It helps, but not enough; he's taken out loans from neighbors and friends.

Grateful for the safe haven Jordan has offered him, Aboes says he dreams of moving to America. Returning to Iraq is out of the question: "The threat is greater than nostalgia," he said. He applied for a visa to go to the United States when he came to Jordan. Five years later he's still waiting for a response.

An estimated 400,000 to 500,000 Iraqi refugees live in Jordan. More than twice that live in Syria. Many of the refugees share Aboes' dream of America, even those who blame the United States for creating the conditions in Iraq that forced them to leave. Like Aboes, many are living on little more than hope. Guests of their host countries and unable to work except unofficially, which means bad jobs at bad wages, they survive on savings if they have any, take whatever work they can get and wait for resettlement to a third country that will have them.

The number of countries accepting refugees for resettlements is dwindling, however, as are funds supporting Iraqi refugee operations.

"We do not expect that the same funding levels will be upheld this year, 2012 and beyond," said Marina Aksakalova, a spokeswoman in Damascus for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. With funding levels going down and no new donors stepping in, the agency is by necessity adjusting its programs and prioritizing needs, she said.

The world's attention has shifted to other areas, yet most of the Iraqi refugees have not. They remain stuck in transit, guests in a country not their own, without jobs, rights or a future, even as more refugees continue to arrive.

"There are still refugees coming from Iraq. Every day. And especially Christians and minorities," said Vivian Manneh, emergency regional manager for Catholic Relief Services, which works with Caritas Jordan and local churches to provide assistance to refugees in Jordan and Syria.

Few refugees are returning home to Iraq. Violence, lack of basic services, and high unemployment keep Iraqis from repatriating. A UNHCR survey found that 95 percent of Iraqi refugees do not wish to return. A study by the International Catholic Migration Commission of refugee expectations found that none interviewed thought Iraq would stabilize in their lifetime.

"Security incidents are down, but there are still more security incidents in Iraq than there are in Afghanistan and Somalia combined," said Jana Mason, a spokeswoman with the Washington office of the U.N. refugee agency. "That's one factor in people's decision to return home. It's also a question of what they are going home to. There's a severe shortage of housing. Many don't have housing to go back to or jobs."

But resettlement opportunities for the refugees--a "durable solution" in refugee speak--are limited. The United States accepts around 16,000 Iraqi refugees a year, about 80 percent or more of all the Iraqi refugees resettled. Many European countries are ceasing to accept Iraqi refugees for resettlement or are decreasing how many they take.

"The Europeans are saying we have our share and we can't take any more. Part of it is the economic situation. Part of it is that they believe this problem was not created by them," Manneh said.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Iraqi Refugees Stuck in Transit


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?