(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Iraqi refugees wait to go home

Mu'ayyad Jamil, a 33-year-old Iraqi man, was once a prosperous businessman and a sweetshop owner in his the Qarn district of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. But now he is a vegetable porter for customers at the Saqf al-Sayl market in central Amman, the capital of Jordan.

"I don't feel anything has changed in Iraq. I am happy there is no oppression, but in the meantime there is no work and no security," he told IRIN in Amman.

Mu'ayyad earns up to three Jordanian dinars (about US $5) a day if he is lucky and tries to save some money for his wife and two children who are still back home. He said he left them behind so that he could earn some money, but couldn't afford to take them with him.

Mu'ayyad shares a small two-room flat with seven other Iraqis, who are also waiting to go home. "I don't want to live here. But I am obliged to remain here," he said, adding that he had escaped from Iraq when the war started in March.

Now, nearly seven months after the war in Iraq began, many Iraqis are still working under poor conditions in the black markets of Jordan. "It is well known that there are a lot of Iraqis who have come to the country illegally," Liam Maguine, the country director of CARE International, told IRIN in Amman.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 960 recognised Iraqis in Jordan. The total number of asylum seekers, however, is much higher at 4,243, while the total number of Iraqis who fled Iraq between March and September is recorded as 1,814.

Maguine added that there was a growing concern for these people on the part of the NGOs, donors and the Jordanian government. "We are looking to identify these people, but we need to be careful about it, because they are here illegally. By giving them support might sort of be against the requirements of Jordanian government," Maguine said.

"I cannot wait any longer to be with my family again," Dr Sa'id, a 74-year-old former civil engineer from Baghdad, who has been teaching Arabic and English in Jordan, told IRIN.

After escaping from the Ba'thist regime five years ago, he is now busy putting his belongings together in order to return on Friday. "I have suffered enough. Not every person is educated in Jordan. They can be so cruel to Iraqis, who are helpless. They even beat people. It is so humiliating," he said.

And while no one was available from the Jordanian government to comment on this issue, the authorities maintain they are doing all they can to facilitate the influx of Iraqis fleeing the war.

"Even though the conditions [in Iraq] are so bad, at least here is no Saddam regime, and I will die in peace in my home in Iraq," Sa'id said.

The Jordanian government estimated that before the war there were about 305,000 Iraqis living in the country, of whom about 6,000 went home before the war. Unofficial estimates say the number of Iraqis in Jordan may be much higher.

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