Safe, not yet secureAfter fleeing Syria four years ago, Jordan has become a safe haven for Fahed and his family. It is, however, difficult to secure a decent living.
With a limp, the 65-year-old man walks slowly, carrying his more than 100 kg body across the room. Receiving some cash makes him smile a little, but not for long as he knows they will be used to pay his debts, rent, or other bills.
Fahed and his wife receive cash at the Danish Refugee Council’s centre in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, as part of a winterisation campaign funded by EU humanitarian aid to support Syrian refugees during the winter. The family have been living in a small city in the outskirts of Amman since they arrived from their hometown Homs.
Similar to the more than 650,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, the family’s savings have depleted leaving them struggling to find a source of income, especially with the labour laws set by the Jordanian government. “We can only work within a few fields and my husband and son are not fit to work anyway”, Fahed’s wife Um-Ahmad says.
“Difficult to make a living.”
Having a disabled child has not been easy for the parents. Their son lost his leg in the war. He cannot work to support the family, nor can they cover the cost of his medication.
“It is safe here, far away from the bombs and explosions, but it is difficult to make a living”, Um-Ahmad says as she waits for Fahed to receive the cash from the centre. The family of nine - including her two sons’ wives and one daughter - fled Homs together seeking safety for a few months, however, their wait have now stretched to over four years.
Now, the entire family lives together in a two-room apartment. They receive a JOD 10 per person cash grant from the UNHCR every month, “but what can we buy with this? You tell me? This is not enough to cover our JOD 150 rent, food, medication, electricity and water” Fahed questions, who had to sell two bags of dried milk, which they received from the World Food Programme (WFP), to cover last month’s rent.
Their youngest son, who is not married, is sometimes able to find a few jobs here and there, however there are weeks when he works, and for months cannot find someone to hire him. He works in anything he could find – construction, cleaning, or farming, all without a work permit and so risking being sent to the camps. “This year has been a bit easier for him as the government issued a list of jobs Syrians can work in without a permit, but the type of jobs are limited and market is flooded that is why he does not always find a job”, Um-Ahmad says.
“My sons are able to send their children to school with no fees, which relieves us from costs”, Fahed says. However, one of his daughter’s sons was born in Syria and has no birth certificate therefore she is not registered and has no access to education. “They told her parents to bring their marriage certificate, which is in Syria - where will we find it? We came here with the clothes we were wearing on the day we fled!” Um-Ahmad says, afraid for the future of her granddaughter.
Don’t know how to cover next month’s rent.
Some 80 percent of the registered Syrian refugees in Jordan live outside the camps, creating a pressure on the host community and increasing rent prices. However, similar to many other families, Fahed and his wife could not bear living in a tent on open land in the middle of a desert; it was not possible for them. “Jordan is safe, the people are good to us, and we have been living in this area since our arrival as our relatives are also here”, the couple says, referring to the Syrian community they have around them.
With Fahed’s difficultly to walk or stand for a long time, his son’s disability, and the many other costs the family has to cover, the feeling of security is barely there. “We live by the day, I am not sure how I will cover next month’s rent … let’s see”, Fahed says, looking at his wife who is signalling him to hurry so they can visit the pharmacy to buy their sons painkillers and return home.
The European Union and its Member States are a leading global donor of humanitarian aid. Through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the EU helps over 120 million victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, ECHO provides assistance to the most vulnerable people solely on the basis of humanitarian needs, without discrimination of race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.