Iraqi refugees in Jordan falling into "absolute poverty"
MILAN, 13 April 2011 (TerraSanta.net)—Many Iraqi refugees in Jordan are falling into poverty because the government prohibits them from working or settling in the country, a Vatican official has said.
Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, told Vatican Radio April 12th that restrictions on work have led to refugees falling into “absolute poverty without means of subsistence”.
The archbishop was speaking after returning from a pastoral visit to the country in March.
“They can only send money from Iraq or from family members who are guests scattered in other countries,” Archbishop Vegliò said. “Many times the consequences are dramatic as the situation lasts for years. It is clear that these refugees are not allowed to integrate into Jordanian society.”
He said Jordan currently has 300,000 economic migrants and some 500,000 Iraqi refugees out of a total population of 6.5 million.
“Iraqis do not want to stay in their country and left out of fear,” he said, adding that those who have fled are Muslims as well as Christians. “This has serious consequences for Iraqi society, its people and for every individual,” he said.
But he added that the Church is offering much assistance. He noted how Caritas and the International Catholic Migration Commission are taking care of those most in need, “providing food, work searches, medical care in hospitals and schooling.” Church members, namely Chaldeans and Greek-Melkites, are also providing pastoral care and are “very active on behalf of refugees.”
He said priests and nuns regularly visit the homes of refugees and provide “full assistance to each person and organize camps for young people.”
The refugees hope to return to Iraq but at the moment Archbishop Veglio said it wasn't possible due to the “uncertain and dangerous situation.” One option is to resettle them in other countries, and with this in mind, the archbishop appealed to the European Union to upgrade its resettlement program to accommodate a larger number of refugees from the Middle East.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has said that it hopes this year to expand its partnerships with the Jordanian government and national and international partners, in order to better help the refugees.
It said it will help, among other things, to provide legal aid and to strengthen partnerships over the coming years. It also plans to provide financial assistance through bank cash cards, targeting families living below the poverty line.
However, as of January, UNHCR was only helping 30,800 Iraqi in Jordan, limiting its $43 million budget to providing for those it deems most in need.