First Published: 2017-10-05

Syrian refugees find opportunity at Jordan job fair
EU-funded job fair at Zaatari Camp in Jordan provides vital lifeline for displaced Syrians living in ‘very hard’ conditions.
Middle East Online

"Everybody here is excited about the idea of finding work," says lady signing up

ZAATARI CAMP - After five years without work, Syrian refugee Mohammed Ahmad was nervous but hopeful as he registered with as many firms as possible at a unique job fair in Jordan's sprawling Zaatari camp where he lives.

Around 50 companies were represented at the one-day event Wednesday as they scouted for candidates to fill some 1,000 job opportunities, compiling lists of applicants by name, age and qualification.

The EU-funded job fair, a first at the desert camp that houses some 80,000 refugees, comes after the launch in August of the only employment office at Zaatari following a decision by the Jordanian government to grant residents work permits and let them work in larger towns.

For father of four Ahmad, who fled from Daraa in southern Syria just across the border, the project could provide a vital lifeline.

"I've been living in this camp for five years and spend most of my time sitting around or sleeping," the 34-year-old former farmer.

"Living conditions are very hard here and I hope to get a job that will save us from this."

Ahmad admitted he was "in desperate need of money" as his family struggles to get by on the roughly $30 per person they get each month in credit to spend at the desert camp's two markets.

In comparison the monthly salaries for the jobs offered at the fair, also supported by the United Nation's UNHCR refugee agency and the Jordanian government, rise up to 210 dinars ($300).

Overall, since the launch of the employment office at Zaatari, some 3,000 Syrians have used the facilities to help secure work in the agriculture, industrial and food-processing sectors, organisers said.

The long-term aim is eventually to provide 200,000 job opportunities for the Syrian refugees spread across Jordan, said the EU ambassador to the kingdom, Andrea Fontana.

According to the UNHCR, more than 650,000 refugees have fled to Jordan since their country's war erupted in March 2011, while Amman says the actual figure is 1.3 million.

The UNHCR representative to Jordan, Stefano Severe, said both sides stand to benefit.

"I am confident that having an increased number of Syrians entering the labour market will positively impact the local economy and bring stability to refugee families," he said in a statement.

- 'Everybody excited' in camp -

Dressmaker Sheikha Fadlallah, 54, says the project has become a hot topic in the Zaatari camp, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of the Jordanian capital Amman.

"Everybody here is excited about the idea of finding work," she said. "I need to get a job to pay to fix my teeth. They're completely messed up."

From the employer's point of view, the tens of thousands of residents in the camp offer a large pool of abilities from which to select candidates.

Yussef al-Khawalda, an agent with an agricultural firm, said he needed 16 employees for animal care.

"I hope they all find jobs because it's very sad to see so many people with potential who are just sitting around doing nothing," said Mahmud Jallal, looking for 30 recruits for his pastry factory.

But many face disappointment.

"I haven't found a job. I've spoken to representatives of three companies, all of who told me I'm old and they're looking for young people," said Ihsan al-Masri, 46.

Masri, a father of seven and former van driver, said he had offered to do "any job, security guard or garbage collector, but in vain".

Fellow refugee Nassib Mohammed Saleh, at 76, is nostalgic for the pre-war days when he ran his own business back home and had three employees.

"Believe me, all I have left is this dinar," he said, pulling a coin out of his pocket.

 

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison