Background on Refugees in Jordan


By: Allyson Hawkins[1] with Charles Simpson

Jordan is host to refugees and asylum-seekers from more than 45 different countries, with the largest populations coming from Syria (1.4 million, 658,517 registered with UNHCR), Iraq (66,262), Yemen, (9839), Sudan (4,058) and Somalia (810).[2] Jordan is also host to large numbers of Palestinians, with more than 2 million registered with UNRWA. Conflict drives many refugees to Jordan: from Syrians who began to arrive in 2011 at the beginning of civil unrest; Iraqis who sought refuge in Jordan after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and a new wave from northern Iraq in 2014 fleeing renewed violence; Palestinians who have come to Jordan in waves since 1948 and are now fleeing the conflict in Syria, becoming refugees for a second time; to the newest group of refugees fleeing the present conflict in Yemen.[3]

Furthermore, the majority of Jordan’s refugees are urban, and not camp-based. 80% of Jordan’s refugees reside outside refugee camps.[4] Amman itself hosts 32% of Jordan’s refugees, “[h]owever, secondary cities and towns near the borders of sending countries have higher proportions of refugees relative to their population and are therefore often more affected.” Additionally, the refugee population of Jordan skews young, with a median age of 17, and 62% of refugees under the age of 24.[5] However, despite its history as a welcoming haven for refugees, Jordan is neither a State party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees nor its 1967 Protocol. Instead, in 1998 the Jordanian government concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR, agreeing to let UNHCR fulfill certain commitments, including carrying out refugee registration, conducting status determination, providing basic needs to support refugees, and seeking durable solutions for recognized refugees.[6]

With its history as a refugee haven, Jordan has, in many ways, been heralded as a good example of a “refugee-receiving” country, due to its effective working relationship with UNHCR and other international NGOs and humanitarian agencies. Additionally, since many of the refugees that have sought safety in Jordan hail from the Middle East, some view the country as an ideal location for refugee resettlement, due to the shared language, religion, and culture with the host population. However, many studies done on refugee integration in the country, by academics, NGOs, and other institutions cite tension between local Jordanians and refugee populations as a key hurdle to refugee integration in Jordan.

The largest barrier to full integration for refugees in Jordan is the legal domain, and non-existent pathways toward citizenship, and there is an ongoing debates about the arbitrary withdrawal of Jordanian nationality from citizens of Palestinian origin.[7] With the Palestinian legacy, the term “refugee integration” is taboo, and official discourse often adopts “refugee inclusion” instead, thereby avoiding insinuations that refugees will have a protracted stay or permanent settlement.

[1] Assistant Director, Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies and author of RIT report Amman, Jordan. Available at

[2] UNHCR Report, 2

[3] UNHCR 2018, 2

[4] The World Bank, 6

[5] The World Bank, 7-8

[6] UNHCR 2018, 1

[7] UNHCR 2018