Jordan + 3 more

Displaced Minorities Part I: Migration and displacement trends of Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni refugees and other migrants in Jordan (April 2017)

Originally published



Donor conferences in London (2016) and Brussels (2017) have strengthened international commitments to support Jordan in its efforts to protect and assist more than 1.3 million Syrians living within its borders, of whom 658,000 are registered refugees. Despite the importance of addressing the needs of Syrian refugees in Jordan, a focus on Syrians has overshadowed the equally important needs of refugees and other migrants from other countries living in the country.

Among the 2.9 million non-Jordanians living in Jordan are 728,000 refugees and asylum seekers from 41 countries registered with UNHCR. Of these, 10,000 are Somali, Sudanese or Yemeni. Despite representing a substantial proportion of people in need of assistance in Jordan, these smaller population groups often receive insufficient attention and inadequate support, which some have argued is due to hierarchical aid distribution and a tendency to put nationality ahead of needs. Bringing together what is known from the limited literature and media reporting, this feature article examines migration and displacement from Somalia, Sudan and Yemen to Jordan, analysing the mixed motives for fleeing these countries, the routes taken, recent trends in arrivals and registration, and the intentions of these groups once in Jordan.

Part II of this article (forthcoming) will elaborate on the situation faced by Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni refugees and other migrants living in Jordan, highlighting their specific humanitarian and protection needs. The articles form part of a larger project on displaced minorities in the Middle East, being undertaken by the Mixed Migration Platform (MMP), which will include a roundtable discussion, a rapid needs assessment, and further research


This article presents a review of the available secondary data on Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni refugees and other migrants in Jordan. Given the limited amount of reporting on these populations, the study supplemented desk research with a small series of key informant interviews carried out during the course of February-April 2017. Nine open-ended interviews were carried out in Amman with NGO staff, researchers and members of the focus communities. These interviews were exploratory in nature and conducted in order to triangulate information from secondary data, identify key issues and highlight information gaps.

Mixed motives: Fleeing conflict and poverty

Somalia, Sudan and Yemen continue to suffer some of the most violent conflicts in the world, inducing local, regional and international displacement. Civil war, human rights abuses and economic decline have affected parts of Sudan since the 1990s, triggering widespread displacement within the country, the region, and beyond.5 Likewise, Somalia has faced insecurity, conflict and economic troubles since 1991, and more recently, battled a severe drought putting many at risk of famine.6 As a result, millions of Somalis have been displaced internally as well as to nearby countries, including Yemen,
Kenya, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.7 Although large-scale displacement from Yemen is more recent, escalating conflict since 2015 has caused upheavals to Yemeni society and economy, and shows few signs of abating. In addition to around two million internally displaced persons (IDPs), some 184,000 people have fled from Yemen to nearby countries, including both Yemenis and other foreign nationals previously living in Yemen.8 At the same time, refugees and other migrants from Ethiopia, Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa region continue to travel to Yemen, adding further complexity to the mixed migration context in the region.9 While Somalis, Sudanese and Yemenis are displaced across the Horn of Africa, Gulf, and Middle East regions and beyond,
Jordan is often seen as a suitable destination due to its relative stability, prosperity, access to services (particularly healthcare), and access to resettlement processes.10 Changes in the pattern of arrivals to Jordan have tended to align with changes in the displacement context in origin or transit countries. For example, as the displacement crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region escalated between 2012 and 2014, the number of Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers in Jordan quadrupled, and has since stabilised as violence has receded in Sudan.11 Similar dynamics are seen in Yemen, where an increase in Yemeni refugees in Jordan has coincided with the escalation in conflict since 2015.12 At the same time, because of the variety of routes taken to reach Jordan, which often involve multiple and/or lengthy transit stops, clear causal links between the complex causes of displacement and the reasons Somalis, Sudanese and Yemenis arrive in Jordan are difficult to isolate.