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.

 

Tillerson pushes to undercut Iran at landmark Saudi, Iraq meeting

US-backed forces capture key Syria oil field

UN ends Libya talks with no progress made

Gulf share values plummet

Greening the Camps brings food and hope to refugees

No clear US strategy in Syria after Raqqa liberation

More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party

Washington sees potential Hezbollah threat in the US

Cairo killing sparks security concerns among Copts

Iraq PM arrives in Saudi to upgrade ties

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk