18May2023 Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan – Livelihood Assessment


Ibtihal Safi, Project Coordinator at ARCS Jordan

Following the US-led war, waves of sectarian assaults, and capture by the Islamic State (ISIS), hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled to Jordan and other neighboring nations. While political unrest and violent practices against defenseless returnees remain, Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homeland are discouraged from returning.

Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities who faced persecution and were pillaged from their homes, some of whom now live in Jordan, remain displaced, struggling to obtain employment or provide for their families. As of December 2022, Jordan was hosting over 61,000 Iraqis, the country’s second largest group of refugees. However, not all Iraqis in Jordan have an active UNHCR asylum seeker certificate, leaving many without documentation and humanitarian relief.

Over the course of the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana-funded project to support the Iraqi Christian minority in Amman in collaboration with Caritas Jordan, ARCS’ local coordinator and volunteers have had the opportunity to speak with members of the minority and learn their stories.

In the absence of recent information and humanitarian and academic studies on refugees and asylum seekers of minorities living in Jordan following forced migration, ARCS waded into assessing the socioeconomic and livelihood conditions of members of this minority who are residing in non-camp settings in Amman, in a study that focused on understanding their current situation, needs, and coping mechanisms.

The study particularly examined the accessibility and gaps in service provision across a broad array of sectors, including work and income, education, health, food security, water, sanitation and hygiene, sewage and legal assistance, where findings revealed that the Christian minority among Iraqi refugees in Jordan endures lingering harsh living conditions with limited access to essential services, while awaiting protracted resettlement to third countries.

Together with savings and retirement pay from previous occupations in Iraq, money received from relatives is the main source of income for the majority. While just 5% of household heads have found employment after moving to Jordan, the situation is even worse for women, as virtually all female study participants have never been employed in any livelihood activity in Jordan. 

Dropping out of formal schooling remains largely a serious worry among Iraqi children. The majority of children attend informal and church schools. Besides favoring this option in order to safeguard their children from isolation and feelings of insecurity in public schools, the main issue cited by parents as a barrier to receiving a quality school education was the high cost of school fees and supplies

Moreover, the high expenses of healthcare fees deter Iraqis from seeking treatment, unsure where to turn for assistance or help. Access to nutritional assistance and medicine were highlighted as the most urgent health needs. Also, after witnessing war violence and traumatic events, nearly half of the respondents or a member of their households needed or still needs psychiatric care and counseling for psychological illnesses.

Jordan has a medium rate of undernourishment, and more than half of the respondents reported that owing to high food prices, their family couldn’t subsist on the amount of food they had. Reducing the number or portions of daily meals, and borrowing money to purchase food items are used as food-insecurity coping strategies, in attempts to meet the household’s nutritional demands.

Finally, the expense of services and immigration counsel was cited as a legal concern, with around 90% of refugees and asylum seekers reporting they had not obtained legal aid in form of advice, counseling and court representation when needed by an attorney.

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