Jordanian Paper Fears Security Problems As Iraqi Refugees Arrive

Article by Nermeen Murad: "Jordan’s Legacy"

Jordan Times, Amman
30 Jul 07

Much has been written about how Jordan is a destination for
refugees escaping the war-ravaged countries in the neighbourhood,
particularly from Palestine. One sometimes even forgets that Jordan’s
first immigrants, Circassians, Chechens and Armenians, settled in
downtown Amman even before the 1948 war that brought the first wave
of Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinians are the well-documented case of mass immigration,
in 1948, 1967 or, in smaller numbers, after they were forced out of
Lebanon and Kuwait. But there are also pockets of Syrians, Lebanese
and Iraqis who over the years escaped political developments to seek
the protection of the Hashimites. So to say that Jordan has become
a hub for nationalities united under the protective umbrella of the
Hashimite regime would be stating the obvious.

The sacrifice of the Jordanian people who supported their leadership
in mapping out this unique role for the Kingdom can only be weighed
against the benefits that these immigrants brought to the country. I do
not only mean financial benefit, although cynics would certainly argue
that much international aid to Jordan was triggered by the need to
support the Kingdom absorb these waves of immigrants. I specifically
refer to the multicultural personality of the new generation of
Jordanians who see themselves as products of this ethnic melting
pot with roots in many neighbouring countries and who, therefore,
work on building business and political bridges with all.

Now it appears we are faced with one of the more challenging
immigration waves, that of Iraqis. As the Palestinians, the Iraqis
bring with them security risks to the country’s unique stability,
if only because of their own sectarian differences and because their
recent political history which was bloody and violent. But having
listed all the risks of welcoming this new wave of immigrants,
I must admit that I find it offensive to hear all the arguments
against allowing this group of people to find peace among us.

More importantly, I feel that we need to help this group learn how to
live in peace, as one day, they will be able to take this experience
back to their country when all settles there.

There are definitely security risks, but we have learned over the
years exactly how to monitor these risks and root them out. We also
have been relatively selective in who we have allowed to come and
reside among us. Now that they do, we must let them live in peace
and dignity. To do that, they need to be able to travel freely, seek
business opportunities and, most obviously, bring their children up
in a normal environment.

The decision by King Abdullah to personally follow up on the situation
of Iraqi immigrants and ensure that their lives run smoothly while in
Jordan is testament to the ongoing legacy not only of the Hashimites
but also of the Jordanians who have made sacrifices over the decades,
sharing their space with waves of "guests".

The King’s decision to waive the residency requirement for
schoolchildren has brought huge relief in the Iraqi community in
Jordan. The first result of this move is that this community will
begin to feel a bond with the rest of us, regardless of our origins,
and understand why we all work so hard to safeguard the stability of
Jordan. The more they become part of our system the more they will
become active participants in safeguarding this system.

Until such a time when Iraq becomes stable, Jordan and Jordanians
must work to cultivate the best relationship with its Iraqi guests
so that they would go back and become the best neighbours we can have.

This is the formula that King Abdullah highlighted with his move to
place this group under his protective wing last week. When they are
made welcome in our country, they not only look after our country while
they are in it, but also later when they move back to theirs. This
is Jordan’s legacy and this is the secret behind its stability.