ZAATARI, Jordan – An employment office at the world’s second largest refugee camp, Zataari, in northern Jordan, was on Tuesday a continuing source of hope for the tens of thousands of Syrians displaced there by their country’s civil war.
A reported 1,800 Syrian refugees have secured work – predominantly in agricultural or construction sectors – at the job center since its inauguration on July 16 as part of a collaborative effort between the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Jordanian government.
“These statistics depend on the entry and exit permits that are registered; the number may be more than 1,800 given that some refugees may have not registered on the system,” UNHCR’s External Communication officer, Marwa Hashem, told epa.
Hashem added that many of the camp’s residents are requesting work permits “because they facilitate their mobility – in and out of the camp – and it also gives them the dignity that comes with earning your own money.”
Situated some 85 kilometers (52 miles) northeast of the Jordanian capital Amman, Zataari provides shelter to around 80,000 Syrians who have fled the brutal civil war that has ravaged their homeland since 2011.
Laura Buffoni, who is Senior Livelihoods Officer at UNHCR office in Jordan, told epa over the phone that the employment office at Zaatari was the first to cater to Syrian refugees in the region.
“A similar project has already gone ahead in the Palestinian territories but, for Syrians in the refugee camps of the Middle East, it’s a first,” she said.
Buffoni added that another employment office was expected to open soon in the Azraq refugee camp, also in Jordan, where about 36,000 Syrians live.
“They (Syrian refugees) are very proud that the Jordanian government, the ILO and the UNHCR have got together and found ways to work on this and make it happen,” she explained.
In 2016, Jordan became the first Arab country to issue legal work permits for Syrian refugees, following the commitment it made at a conference in London to reduce barriers to legal refugee employment.
However, this step sparked anger in certain sectors in the Hashemite Kingdom, where the unemployment rate sat at around 15 percent.
“The labor office provides general employment services to the Syrian refugees, including vocational advice, training courses, marketing services and permits for working in the agricultural and construction spheres,” said Mohamed al-Azam, an ILO expert who works in vocational workshops.
Al-Azam said it was very rare to find university graduates to be among the Syrian refugees staying in the camps, adding that most only had primary and secondary education qualifications.
He insisted, however, that there was no obstacle for those who wanted to find work, and urged those seeking employment to attend an ILO-run four-day course which, following a final exam, allocates its participants permits for specific job posts.
Women made up around five to six percent of the Syrian workforce in Jordan and could mainly be found in the agricultural sector, al-Azam said.
“Most women work in agriculture since they came from agricultural areas in southern Syria and working in agriculture does not need qualifications,” he said.
The majority of Syrian refugees who obtained work permits now work in the provinces of Mafraq and Irbid in the north and northeast of the country.