Refugee, Jordanian, and Other Migrant

experiences with integration

 “University Circle,” was once mostly Jordanian college students, but is now home to thousands of Syrian family residences and workplaces.

“University Circle,” was once mostly Jordanian college students, but is now home to thousands of Syrian family residences and workplaces.

 
 

Experiences of Jordanian Hosts

A superficial conversation with Jordanians will always yield the same response: Syrians are our guests. But with a depth of trust, Jordanians open up about a more complicated perspective toward refugees in their cities, one that is at once amazingly hospitable, and also concerned about the practical stresses of a developing, water-scarce, and infrastructure-poor country hosting millions of people in need.

For two days in Irbid during Ramadan I [Charles] had a Jordanian join me as a research assistant, who fasted while helping with translation, note-taking, and logistics. Throughout the day we listened sympathetically to dozens of Syrians, and he began to grow frustrated: “they’re all saying the same thing, they all have the same problems. They’re the same problems as Jordanians, by the way.” He grew frustrated: “Jordanians do everything for the Syrians, everything, we open our borders, our homes, everything.” After spending three full days listening to Syrians, his voice was the only Jordanian I had heard. Back in the car, the Arabic pop hit “Safi” came on the radio, ringing out the lyrics: “okay, okay, shut up, not another word…we have nothing more to say.” My friend turned the music up until it was blasting.

The international humanitarian and development communities often make the same mistake I did, with tunnel-vision on the plight of Syrian refugees while ignoring Sudanese, Iraqis, Palestinians, and of course, the low- and middle-income Jordanians who are hosting them. From this perspective, Jordanian frustrations with the international community are understandable, as are their concerns about giving shelter to refugees in their cash strapped house.