Iraqi refugees in Jordan are ‘guests’ with few privileges

October 18, 2010

Slwan Kehedeer Antoon was his own boss in Mosul, Iraq. He owned a liquor store and a car-rental agency.

Then, four years ago, Muslim hardliners bombed his liquor store.

Afterward, Antoon started driving his children to and from school because he felt he could not trust their safety to others.

Ultimately, Antoon, 46, a Chaldean Catholic, and his family fled to the safety and security of Jordan.

They are refugees in every sense of the word, except by Jordan’s definition.

Jordan confers refugee status only upon Palestinians in their midst.

As for the Chaldean Iraqis? Even though they number 500,000, it’s more a matter of don’t ask, don’t tell.

Jordan considers them guests.

Antoon cannot reopen his liquor store or car-rental business in Amman, because Jordan forbids Iraqis who have fled their homeland to work.

If they are caught working, they are subject to deportation back to Iraq because they committed a crime.