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Lives on Hold:

Assyrian Refugees in Jordan

June 20, 2019

API Refugees in Jordan Cover.jpg

Of the millions of refugees in Jordan, little is known about the fate of the ethnic Assyrians among the refugee population.

The emigration of Assyrians from Iraq has steadily persisted over the course of the past two decades, but the recent spike in emigration rates was directly caused by the rise of ISIS in 2014. The events of 2014 and their sustained impact forced large numbers of Assyrians—including those indirectly affected—to flee the country and seek refuge in neighboring countries, including Jordan, which continues to host significant numbers of Assyrian refugees. Due to the lack of reliable figures on the number of Assyrian refugees in Jordan, it is unclear exactly how many Iraqi Assyrians have arrived since 2014, though unofficial estimates suggest the current number of Assyrian refugees in Jordan is approximately 16,000.

The overwhelming majority of Assyrian refugees in the country have concrete plans to emigrate to a third country and are actively seeking resettlement. The majority of those stuck in limbo have been waiting more than two years—some since the rise of ISIS in 2014—hoping that they may still be able to access a "better life" defined by safety, equal rights and opportunity, and the chance to rebuild their lives.

Assyrian refugees are in various stages of grief as they left behind all they have ever known and continue to process the trauma they have experienced. They arrive in Amman, Jordan separated from their families, friends, and a land that their ancestors have called home for thousands of years.

The Assyrian refugee in community faces unique challenges in displacement, and their specific needs often go unaddressed by international actors. Their wait for resettlement is characterized by limited information, uncertainty about their futures, and a growing sense of hopelessness.

For many Assyrian refugees, the prolonged state of limbo has made the future difficult to imagine. Protracted displacement and monotonous lifestyles have had a negative impact on the mental health of Assyrian refugees and may have long-term consequences. Unable to move forward and unwilling to go back, their lives are on hold and their wait is becoming intolerable.

There are three principal solutions for Assyrian refugees in Jordan: voluntary repatriation to Iraq, integration within their host community, or resettlement in a third country. This report seeks to convey the living conditions of the Iraqi Assyrian refugee community in Jordan. It also seeks to document the root causes for their displacement and assess the community's priorities for voluntary repatriation to Iraq.

This report has been produced with the financial assistance of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California, Dr. John Michael, Tony S. Kalogerakos, Dr. Edison Ishaya, Abe Yousif, and Dr. Dennis Gelyana. The contents of this report are the responsibility of the Assyrian Policy Institute and do not necessarily reflect the position of the above-named organizations and individuals.

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