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.

 

Macron faces rights test on Sisi’s visit to Paris

Iran recruits Afghan Shiites to defend Syria regime

Main Saudi sovereign wealth fund projects to boost jobs by 2020

Abadi challenges Tillerson on Iran militia remarks

In Morocco’s imperial city of Fez, magic fills the air

Israel bans sale of binary options

Fierce clashes between IS, paramilitary coalition near Mosul

Saudi Aramco chief says lack of investment could lower supplies

EU promises Sudan aid for ‘as long as it takes’

Baghdad-Erbil showdown generates new dangers for Iraq

UNICEF says 1,100 children malnourished in Syria’s Ghouta

IS ‘executed’ 116 suspected of Syria regime collaboration

UN says Yemen children in desperate need of aid

Orthodox Jews block Jerusalem entrance in protest

Six terror suspects arrested in Morocco

EU announces 106 million euros in aid for Sudan

French judges to rule on whether 'Jihad' is acceptable name

Saudi Aramco chief confirms IPO despite doubts

Lack of accountability hinders governing in Morocco, analysts say

Sudan editor convicted after Bashirs accused of graft

Russia’s Lavrov urges Iraq-Kurd dialogue

Iraq dismisses US call for Iranian-backed militias to 'go home'

Kurds to arrest 11 Iraqis in response to similar Baghdad move

Car bomb attack kills 9 in south Yemen military base

Rouhani boasts about Iran’s greatness in region

Iraq unrest highlights long-standing political divisions

Bahrain temporarily frees female activist

Israel arrests 51 Palestinians for ‘terror-related’ crimes

Egypt court sentences 11 people to death for 'terrorism'

Israel police arrest 15 over anti Jewish-Arab dating campaign

Tillerson woos Gulf allies to curb Iran influence

Opposition calls on Iraqi Kurd leader to step down

Abadi, Sadr meet in Jordan

No clear US strategy in Syria after Raqqa liberation

Tillerson pushes to undercut Iran at landmark Saudi, Iraq meeting

Greening the Camps brings food and hope to refugees

Gulf share values plummet

US-backed forces capture key Syria oil field

More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party

Washington sees potential Hezbollah threat in the US

UN ends Libya talks with no progress made

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