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Jordan and the World Celebrate International Migrants Day
Jordan and the World Celebrate International Migrants Day
Wednesday, 18 December 2019

On Wednesday, Jordan and the world celebrate the International Migrants Day, which falls on December 18th of each year. This year, the International Migrants Day is commemorated under the theme "A Day Without Migrants". This theme comes in light of the current international circumstances, which are characterized by the migration of thousands from their homes and countries, either for their livelihood or as a result of armed conflicts, sectarian conflicts and massive losses of human lives.

The celebration of this day aims at highlighting this global problem, raising the level of public awareness among people and governments towards eliminating all forms of discrimination, paving the way to attract migrants to their host countries, ensuring their legitimate rights to live in peace worldwide, and working in accordance with international covenants, treaties and recommendations.

In a special press release on this occasion, the Higher Population Council affirmed its vision, which entails emphasis on the population dimension conducive to achieving development and welfare for the components of Jordanian society, including the non-Jordanian population residing in Jordan, and studying the characteristics of this population.  HPC stated the existence of about 57 different nationalities in Jordan, the most prominent of which, according to the Population and Housing Census of 2015, are Syrians, whose numbers accumulate to about one million and 300 hundred thousand people, Iraqis at 131,000, Palestinians at 634,000, Egyptians at 636,000, and domestic workers of various nationalities at 91,000 according to the Ministry of Labor permits, in addition to the other nationalities, who constitute 30.6% of the population.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees of concern to the UNHCR in Jordan increased in 2018 by 5%, distributed in various parts of the country. The capital, Amman, houses 33% of refugees, while Irbid governorate houses 24%, Zarqa houses 17% and Mafraq governorates house 15% of refugees, respectively. Furthermore, Jordan’s population in 2018 was estimated at 10.3 million, 3 million of whom are non-Jordanians.

HPC highlighted its growing concern towards migration, as an element of population dynamics next to births and deaths, which affects the size and composition of the population, the rates of population and economic growth and population’s standard of living. HPC also indicated that its interest in this issue is reflected through conducting studies and research on migrants and holding seminars and workshops to determine the impact of asylum, specifically the Syrian refugees’ situation and its impact on the population dimension in Jordan. HPC has prepared a various number of monographs, the most prominent of which are: A study entitled “Population Characteristics of Syrians in Jordan and the Opportunities to Address Challenges Posed by Asylum on Jordanian Labor Market”, with a summary entitled “The Characteristics of Syrian Population in Jordan 2018”, the study of “Child Marriage in Jordan 2017”, a policy brief of “Child Marriage in Jordan”, and a study on “Reproductive Health Services for Syrians Living Outside Camps in Jordan, 2016” in addition to a policy brief of this study

HPC highlighted that Jordan has galvanized large numbers of populations as a consequence of forced or voluntary external migrations. The first of these forced migrations occurred at the time of the Emirate of Transjordan in 1921, when Circassian and Chechen migrants fled to the Emirate of Transjordan due to the outbreak of the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire at the time between (1878 - 1905), and the Armenian migrations, which occurred after the First World War.

Since its independence in 1946, Jordan has accepted more migrations, as a result of the emergence of the 1948 and 1967 wars and the Gulf War in 1990 that convulsed the region. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency estimated the size of the first wave of forced migrations that accompanied the Palestinian Nakbah in 1948 by about 400 thousand refugees, while the second wave that accompanied the June 1967 war was estimated at about 350 thousand emigrant, and the third wave after the Gulf War in 1990 was accompanied by an estimated 220 thousand, as depicted in the results of the 1994 Population and Housing Census.

The waves of Syrian refugees commenced in 2011 a result of forced asylum of their country due to the ongoing war in Syria, and continued during the four years that preceded the Population and Housing Census of 2015. According to the results of the 2015 Population and Housing Census, the number of Syrian refugees was roughly one million and 300 thousand refugees, about 700 thousand of whom are registered in the UNHCR. The census also indicated that Syrians make up about 13.3% of the general population, where 89% of them reside in Jordanian cities and villages and 11% reside in refugee camps.

Jordan is perceived by immigrants as an expelling and alluring country at the same time; no less than a million Jordanian workers labor mostly in the Gulf countries, and their annual returns are estimated at about 2 billion Jordanian Dinars, while the local Jordanian labor market harbors a large number of migrant workers, which was estimated at about a million and a half, and the number of regular migrant workers reached 407 thousand in 2018 according to the number of granted work permits, while the rest are irregular. Moreover, Egyptians workers still construct the largest portion of these workers, as their granted permits amounted to about 223 thousand in 2018, followed by domestic workers who numbered at about 91 thousand in the same year. As for the Syrian population, the number of Syrians that were officially registered at the Ministry of Labor has reached 46 thousand in 2018.

HPC highlighted that Jordan is working on protecting the migrants’ rights, both individuals and groups. Legislations were developed to guarantee migrants’ rights, such as the Jordanian Labor Law, Social Security, the Penal Code, the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, and the Residence and Foreigners’ Affairs Law.

Furthermore, the HPC noted that the geographical distribution of the population varies between the Kingdom’s governorates and between urban and rural areas in a manner that is inconsistent with economic and environmental requirements and the achievement of development goals. About Three-quarters of the Kingdom’s population are concentrated in three governorates (Amman, Zarqa and Irbid) at an estimated rate of 74.8%, while the population rates in southern governorates (Karak, Tafila, Ma'an and Aqaba) is estimated at 8% of the total Kingdom’s population. HPC indicated that this distribution has had a significant impact on the population density among the governorates, which was the highest in Irbid, as it reached (1216.2 people per square kilometer), and lowest in Ma'an, as it reached (2.5 people square kilometer) by the end of 2018. Moreover, the population rate in urban areas reached 90.3%, while reaching 9.7% in rural areas.

HPC also noted that the unbalanced distribution of the population had been the result of the differenet distribution of services, infrastructure, and and employment opportunities in regions alone, and such factors led to the movement of the population from their places of residence to other areas that met their requirements. Furthermore, the movement of individuals within the kingdom’s borders between governorates or inside the Kingdom from abroad is one of the most prominent factors that lead to changes in demographic, economic, social, and other aspects, whether in the countries of original or countries of destination.

 HPC also indicated that Jordan's economy was characterized by the lack of optimal distribution of natural and economic resources and development gains in various geographical regions, which in turn leads to an exacerbation of internal migration from the less fortunate areas of development gains to the more advantaged areas,, as well as rural-urban migration. There is a clear difference in the rates of emigration to the governorates in the Kingdom through the data of the General Population and Housing Census of 2015, as the highest net migration rate was in Aqaba governorate, which reached 19.9%, and the lowest in Irbid governorate (2.3%). Moreover, according to the 2015 General Population and Housing, the most attractive and expelling governorates for the population are Amman and Aqaba, while the central region ranked first among the migrants-attracting regions in the Kingdom, Amman ranked first in attracting non-Jordanians migrants, and about 15% of the population have migrated between the Kingdom’s governorates.

HPC highlighted that one of the most prominent challenges facing Jordan due to asylum is the increasing strain on the limited water resources, public services, economic growth, trade, exports, tourism and investments, which led to the increment of budget deficit and public debt; the direct annual cost of hosting Syrian refugees in the Kingdom amounted to 2.3 billion Dollars, while the indirect annual cost was estimated at 3.1 billion Dollars, in addition to the resulting demographic effects and the consequent delay in achieving the expected population opportunity due to the different patterns of reproduction and mortality of the Syrian refugees than the prevailing patterns among Jordanians, as well as straining health services in hospitals and health sub-centers in rural areas hosting Syrian refugees.

Furthermore, HPC noted that, despite the challenges posed by Syrian asylum, Jordan seeks to promote exchanging vocational skills and experiences between Jordanian and Syrian workers in Jordan, enhance partnership between Jordanian and Syrian investors and create a suitable environment for Syrian investments in Jordan. HPC noted that the increased public investment driven by the influx of Syrian refugees and the growth in the manufacturing, construction, real estate, transportation, telecommunications and services sectors has led to increasing the real GDP growth rate, and the expansion of small and medium industries of which Syrian industrialists are renowned, especially in the food industries sector. Furthermore, the investments of Syrian factories in the Kingdom will, on the one hand, increase Jordan's exports of food industries, and will result in meeting the needs of the local market on the other, especially after the cessation of imports from Syria. Moreover, Syrians have contributed to increasing the purchasing power, especially in terms of consumer goods and commercial services, through transferring the skills of the Syrian labor forces to the Jordanian labor forces, especially in the field of vocational, handicraft and manual labor, in addition to the fact that the presence of competition for work opportunities in the informal sector has led to reducing the stigma “shame culture” and improving the attitude of Jordanians towards vocational work.

HPC also noted that during  London Conference held in February 2016 in support of Syria and the region, Jordan pledged to provide hundreds of thousands of work opportunities for Jordanians and Syrians by providing 200,000 jobs for Syrian refugees by 2020 without disrupting the Jordanian labor market or affecting Jordanians’ employment opportunities. The total cumulative number of permits granted to Syrians over the period from 2016 to October, 2018 reached over 121 thousand permits. Furthermore, Jordan aims at dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis as an economic opportunity through the development of investments, implementing reforms to the business and investment environment, promoting financial independence, as well as supporting the communities hosting Syrian refugees.

Finally, HPC pays utmost attention to active employment policies in promoting employment of Syrians as a key development component of demographic, social and economic aspects, while ensuring the rights of migrants. HPC indicated that Jordan has adopted innovative, up to date methods in developing the Jordan Response Platform for the Syria Crisis (JRPSC) which constitutes the strategic partnership mechanism for the development of a comprehensive refugee, resilience-strengthening and development response to the impact of the Syria crisis on Jordan; enhance humanitarian and developmental assistance in light of this crisis; urge the international community to fulfill its  commitments by continuing to provide financial grants to support the response plan, so as Jordan can continue to carry out its humanitarian duty towards Syrian refugees, promote and maintain  the process of development.