A refugee is someone who ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
An asylum seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.
These definitions come from UNHCR’s 1951 Refugee Convention, which also defines refugee rights and legal obligations of states thereof. But Jordan has not signed this convention. Instead, Jordan has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UNHCR that recognizes the 1951 Convention definition of a refugee and the principle of non-refoulement.* It specifies that asylum seekers may stay in Jordan pending refugee status determination (RSD) and allows mandate refugees a maximum stay of 6 months after recognition, during which period a ‘durable solution’ must be found. Recently, Jordan signed an amendment with UNHCR extending this period to one year.
A migrant is someone who leaves their country of origin for reasons other than refugee ones. If you came to Jordan to study, meet family members or find higher-paying work but were not forced to flee your country because of persecution, then you are a migrant, not a refugee. UNHCR benefits do not apply to you.
In Jordan, Palestinian refugees are “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 14 May 1948, and who lost both homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” UNRWA, not UNHCR, is responsible for Palestinian refugees.
Asylum and Refugee Status Determination Process
UNHCR oversees RSD status, services and protection in Jordan. UNHCR has operated in Jordan since October 1991, but officially opened its office in April 1997 and formalized its operations by agreement with Jordan in July 1997.
The procedural standards for RSD under UNHCR’s mandate are here, with all supplementary policy documents here. In general, the RSD process is a series of interviews between the asylum seeker and UNHCR.
At your RSD interview, a UNHCR officer will ask you to talk about your background, what happened to you in your country to make you leave and why you can’t go back to your country, so that UNHCR can determine if you meet all the criteria in the refugee definition.
However, Jordan has ratified and published several international treaties and human rights conventions in the Official Gazette, which gives them the force of ordinary laws. These conventions include the ICCPR, ICESCR, CEDAW, CRC, CAT, and CERD, as well as the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Most importantly, Art. 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) is considered an effective prohibition against refoulement, which means a refugee shall not be expelled or returned to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opnion.
For more information on international legal protection for refugees, see the UNHCR’s Protection Manual.
Jordan’s MOU with UNHCR states that a legally resident refugee may “work for his own account whenever the laws and regulations permit,” and relevant laws stipulate that refugees and asylum seekers shall be treated as equal to non-citizens regarding work permits.
The Jordanian Ministry of Labor has a list of professions in which only Jordanian citizens are allowed to work. This list is not fixed and subject to update from time to time from the Ministry.
Jordan Government granted refugees and asylum seekers’ children to be enrolled in public schools free, per the regulations clarified and requirements announced officially on yearly basis.
Contact UNICEF about registering school-age children in public schools for free, or helping child/adolescent workers to enroll in irregular education, at 080022766.
Contact Save the Children to ask about education and protection within schools, at 065657411/2/3.
Marriage and Personal Status
Individual identity documents for refugees and asylum seekers (e.g. birth, death, marriage , divorce certificates, and other official documentations) are generally issued without discrimination in accordance to Jordanian laws and regulations from Jordanian courts and official departments. The 2010 Personal Status Law sets the age for marriage of boys and girls to 18, with exceptions in special circumstances for marriages below 18 but no younger than 15 years old. These cases require official judicial approval and a special process.
UNHCR-registered refugees can access primary and secondary health care at Government Health Centers. Tertiary health care is only available through the Exceptional Care Committee(ECC) with prior approvals for emergency cases.
Refugees can access all types of medical services including mental health care through UNHCR’s implementing partners, e.g. Caritas, Jordan Health Aid Society (JHAS) and International Medical Corps (IMC), in addition to several other international and natioinal organizations providing similar services.
The UNHCR has a free info line: 06-4008000 operating from Sunday to Thursday from 8:30am – 4:00.
ARDD-Legal Aid provides free legal services and consultation. Call us at 064617477 from Sun-Thurs 9:00 am-6:00 pm.
Or contact ARDD-LA operating (24/7) emergency line: 0777387221.
Where can I go?
Resettlement under UNHCR is the selection and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought protection to a third State that admits them with permanent residence status. This resettled status ensures protection against refoulement and access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those of nationals.
Resettlement is one of three durable solutions UNHCR is mandated to implement in cooperation with states, the others being local integration and voluntary repatriation
But resettlement is not a right. States have no obligation to accept refugees for resettlement. UNHCR identifies refugees in need of resettlement as part of its mandate, but States offer permanent places of residence in their countries.
Resettlement states determine the size and composition of their resettlement programs. The resettlement countries assess UNHCR’s individual case submissions and decide whether or not to grant resettlement. States have full control over the decision according to their own policies, laws and regulations.
Nevertheless, UNHCR urges all States to be guided by the agency’s internationally recognized criteria on eligibility, global needs and priorities.