A Note on terminology

 
 

Defining “integration” in the context of Jordan

“Integration” is a taboo term in Jordan because it carries the assumption that refugees will become permanent residents of Jordan, harkening back to challenges integrating Palestinians, reaching a boiling point with the 1970 Black September incident when the Palestine Liberation Organization led militant action against the ruling Hashemite family. Because of this sensitivity, the term “social cohesion,” is often used as a synonymous but politically unweighted term. During interviews, we often chose to translate social integration into the term ailaqat or, “relations” between refugees and Jordanians, because it was a clearer, less abstract term and did not carry nearly as much political baggage as the literal terms for “integration,” tkamel or twaheed. For this report, we use the term “integration,” but also acknowledge that all integration in Jordan is “de facto integration,”[1] not de jure integration as an expressed policy of Jordan or an explicit goal of aid agencies working there.

Defining “refugees” in the context of Jordan

In Arabic, the literal translation of the term “refugee” is straightforward, but the term carries heavy sociopolitical baggage, with associations to particular groups, and particular conflicts, for example Palestinians 1948 and 1967, and Syrians 2012-present. Also, the linguistic and moral roots of the concept of providing “refuge” in Jordan tend to be rooted more in the Prophet’s experience of taking refuge in Medina during conflict on the Arabian Peninsula, rather than being rooted in the 1951 Geneva Convention.[2]

The term “refugee” also carries widespread emotional baggage; among Syrian refugees, for example, the term in Arabic (alajaieen) is often considered demeaning, with refugees preferring to call themselves “migrants,” “guests,” or simply the national or sub-national identifier in their country of origin (e.g. “Syrian” or “from Hama”). Among INGOs, the term “refugee” is also contentious. For example, since the majority of Syrians in Jordan are not registered, UNHCR often refers to “persons of concern” rather than strictly “refugees.”

Therefore, as a working definition for this report the term “refugee” may refer to Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Sudanese or others even if we did not explicitly check individuals’ legal status. We will refer to southeast Asians, Egyptians, and other foreigners in Irbid simply as “migrants,” even though some may have been forcibly displaced. We also refer to aid workers as “migrants” to draw out power imbalances imbedded in Jordan’s migration policies between Western, Arab, and other non-Western immigrants.[3]


[1] Jacobsen, 2001

[2] Brand 2010: 106

[3] For another jarring example of these sorts of terminological and power status problems, see von Koppenfels, A. (2014). Migrants or expatriates? US citizens as a migrant group. Migration Policy Practice [Online] IV:16-19. Available at: http://publications.iom.int/bookstore/free/MPP16_24June2014.pdf.