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Unity and Inclusion: Refugees and the Jordanian Host Community [EN/AR]

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Authored by Kareem Rosshandler, Lead Researcher at the North Africa-West Asia Institute, on Behalf of the MENA Civil Society Network for Displacement

1. Background to ‘Unity and Inclusion’

This report assesses to what extent refugees in Jordan are living in a state of ‘unity and inclusion’. Unity primarily concerns refugees’ ability to physically reunite with family members. Unity depends on legal and financial variables such as whether or not refugees are living in a country that supports family reunification or whether they are able to collect the funds to bring over family members. As for refugees already living with their family members, unity refers to their psycho-social unity. In other words, how do various social factors – especially pressures – affect the way family members behave towards each other? Inclusion concerns the extent to which refugees have been included in Jordanian society – both in terms of their legal standings as well as their daily experiences with Jordanian neighbours and colleagues.

The objective of this report is to bring to light the challenges facing refugee families in Jordan in the hopes of improving host country, third-country, and donor policies. Seeking beyond common material indicators, the report seeks to convey critical but often overlooked aspects of refugee life in Jordan.

The report draws on Jordan’s experience as a host country since the early 2000s, specifically in its reception of Iraqi, Sudanese, Somali, Syrian, and Yemeni refugees. Its findings are based on ten focus group discussions – two from each of these five communities – in July and August of 2019. 117 people participated in the discussions – 60 women and 57 men. Almost all lived in households ranging from four to eight members. The conceptual backdrop to the study is the United Nations General Assembly’s 2018 endorsement of the Global Compact on Refugees, an initiative spearheaded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Global Compact on Refugees represents the international community’s will to strengthen cooperation and solidarity with both refugees and host countries. Specifically, its objectives are to: (i) ease pressures on host countries; (ii) enhance refugee self-reliance; (iii) expand access to third-country solutions; and (iv) support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity. It represents a landmark in terms of global compacts; while the 1951 Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol formulate the duties of host countries towards refugees, the Global Compact, in turn, establishes a framework for the international community’s duties towards host countries. By recognising the effects of displacement, not only on refugees, but also on the communities and states in which they have resettled, the compact affirms the principles of burden and responsibility-sharing.

The international community’s affirmation of burden and responsibility sharing principles comes as a welcome relief to Jordan, a country long considered a dependable but overstrained destination for refugees from the region and beyond. In light of this national context, this report encourages the nexus of refugees, host countries, and the international community. The first step in fostering effective cooperation between these links is to bring to light difficult situations experienced firsthand by refugees.