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“Jordan spends $300 million on refugees annually. The Hashemite Kingdom does not accept the Israeli notion of settling the refugees in host countries. Jordan’s position is that the refugee’s right of return and/or compensation must be fulfilled in accordance with UN resolution 194,” he adds.

Article 11 of UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which supports the concept of right of return for all refugees, has often been used to legitimize the claim for absolute right of return for Palestinian refugees and displaced persons.

Nevertheless, the effects of dispossession are still evident in most of the camps.

“Our situation is pitiful. Regardless of the extent of humanitarian assistance offered to the refugees here, we will always be worse off than the other official camps in Jordan,” explains Hassan, a well-known figure in Jerash’s Gaza camp.

Wearing the traditional thobe and kafiya, the aging Hassan says the fact that refugees from Gaza camp are not allowed to take up legal employment in Jordan has denied them an otherwise productive life.

In general, Palestinian refugees with Jordanian citizenship have the same rights as other Jordanian citizens. These Palestinians can vote in elections and hold public office – in fact, some are cabinet ministers. According to UNRWA, all Palestinian refugees in Jordan have full Jordanian citizenship except for those 100,000 refugees originally from the Gaza Strip. Until 1967, this tiny area was administered by Egypt.

Refugees from Gaza are eligible for temporary Jordanian passports, but their situation does not entitle them to full citizenship privileges such as the right to vote and employment in the public sector.

“How can families earn a decent living if they are not permitted to work like any other person?” Hassan continues.

“It is not enough to provide camp residents with healthcare and social services to enable them to cope with their difficult living conditions.

“Being allowed to work is essential to helping the refugees help both themselves and their families,” he adds.

Successive waves of involuntary migration have resulted in extreme economic hardship for refugees and displaced persons and, most importantly, altered the demographic composition of a country that at one time was able to absorb these waves. In addition, a combination of factors has contributed to a rise in unemployment and has created disparities of income. The present annual growth of the Kingdom’s economy cannot provide jobs for all those seeking employment.

Twenty-year-old Fadi has a degree in accounting but cannot find a job.

“I’ve been applying for more than a year for any job, but with no luck at all.” Fadi now sells fruit in Gaza camp’s streets to make ends meet.

Nineteen-year-old Mohammad, who lives in Gaza camp, confirms that not one young person in the camp is spoiled – they simply cannot afford to be.

“Everything is very expensive,” asserts Mohammad. “What we usually do in the camps is walk through the streets, watch TV or visit family and friends.”

Schooling is also available in the camps, although classrooms are crowded and supplies are limited.

“Refugee children receive ten years of primary schooling,” says Essa Gharib, the Baqa’a camp service officer.

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Tags: Refugees Children Palestine Jordan Refugee Camps