Many Iraqi asylum-seekers in Jordan have fallen victim to resettlement scams in which they are approached by individuals claiming to guarantee their resettlement in a third country with the help of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), according to UN officials and Iraqi residents.
There are no exact figures about the number of those who have been defrauded but testimonies of individuals and police records show they are in the thousands.
Officials from the Ministry of Interior declined to say how many people have been arrested in connection with such scams.
"We heard… rumours from within the Iraqi community about certain individuals who charge money to asylum-seekers, promising to guarantee their resettlement with the help of the UNHCR. We are here to assure everybody that the UNHCR does not charge money for relocation applications or other procedures," said Imran Riza, the UNHCR representative in Jordan.
Earlier in the week, the UNHCR posted an advertisement in major Arabic newspapers warning Iraqi asylum-seekers not to pay money to anyone promising to guarantee their resettlement or speed up their applications.
"There are some people who are trying to take advantage of the desperate situation of Iraqis by promising them false hopes and playing on their vulnerability," said Riza.
He said some Iraqis paid as much as US$70 for filling in applications and up to US$7,000 for resettlement. The Jordanian authorities had been informed about the illegal practices, he added.
Mohammad Janabi, a 56-year-old Iraqi from Baghdad, said he paid US$5,000 to an agent who promised to help him get a visa for Sweden through the UN relocation programme.
"After a year of waiting, the man who promised to help me, a Jordanian, told me I needed to pay more money to speed up the process, but when I checked with the UN, I did not find my name on the list of applicants," said Janabi.
Jordan is home to nearly half a million Iraqi refugees. Over the past four years, thousands have managed to find refuge in a third country, with the majority heading to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden and the USA.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions