On Illegal Workers in Jordan

This was a very interesting article that I read today on illegal workers from India and Nepal who are facing some difficult situations in Jordan. Basically these workers pay large sums of money to Indian recruiters in order to be illegally trafficked into Jordan. Upon coming to Amman they are housed in terrible conditions waiting for promised employment. No such luck. They are stranded with not enough money to get home.

“I’m ashamed that, as Jordanians, we’re treating them like animals,” said Dr Barbara Burgan, a doctor who donated food and medicine through a local church group.

The numbers of illegal workers are in the thousands and judging by the number of times I’ve seen Egyptians running down the street on a Friday morning being chased by the cops, I would have to say the numbers are at least double the official ones (which according to this article is 150,000).

â??Firas Ta’amneh, a Jordanian lawyer working on migrant issues, points out that governments are seldom interested in protecting migrant workers’ rights if the move will have a negative impact on foreign remittances.

As for the “black market” in labour, Jureidini said that human trafficking had become a booming business, and that workers from poor countries were often vulnerable to unscrupulous recruiting agencies. However, because of their lack of official documentation, most migrant workers remained at the mercy of their employers, working long hours for little pay and few rights, Jureidini added.

Jordan has become a “transition country” for human trafficking, especially into Iraq, the professor noted.â?

One thing is right; there is a lack of government responsibility. And I’m not talking about helping these migrant workers out and giving them housing and taking care of them. These people need to be shipped back and laws need to be enacted and implemented to stop this influx of illegal migrant workers. In my opinion stop all migrant workers, we don’t need them. Lest I sound like a Republican here, keep in mind we are talking about poor workers coming to a poorer country to work! And it does take away work from citizens.

There is the argument that “Jordanians won’t do the work so others have to” mainly out of pride I suppose. Personally I think that’s an unfair argument usually because it’s made by members of the upper class. The poor in Jordan, at least the ones I’ve seen and met, will do anything to get work. The Qualified Industrial Zone that promised work to so many Jordanians are full of Indians and people from the far east. This is absurd. This isn’t America; the majority of our country is out of work and just as poor as Indians in India or Nepalese in Nepal. What makes them different is that employers can abuse migrant workers, especially the illegal kind. This happens by the way all over the Arab world, especially in the Gulf region.

The laws I’m looking for are the kind that ensure employment for nationals, or force employers to hire their own fellow citizens as opposed to foreign workers. The fuzzy economics of this new reality is just absurd. It’s become some sort of sad auction where one poor country sends its poor workers to take the jobs of other poor people in other poor countries simply because they are willing to get paid less and less, and have their rights taken away more and more. And many of these workers complain. Every few months there’s some sort of protest or walk out from some factory in a QIZ and none of the workers are Jordanians!

So take them back home, stop them from coming in, and let our own poor and unemployed get some work and put some bread on their tables for once! I don’t blame the government entirely here; there is a huge level of social responsibility to take into account as well. But hey if you’re a Jordanian and you totally disagree with me that’s fine. But stop by any not-so-well-to-do neighbourhood in Amman or Irbid or Zarqa and ask around; listen to what those people have to say about not finding work.


  • The agents who send them make so much money off these poor workers,you can’t imagine how devastating it is for them when they are sent back home,they usually give up all their life savings to get a chance to work abroad.My husband has a travel agency,and he once received a request from a respectable office in dubai for a group of around sixty indians to come for a touristic trip to both Jordan and Israel,he asked for their official papers and they claimed to be residents in dubai with proper jobs like doctors and engineers,they also sent him their residency papers,and they reserved the usual popular tours,dead sea,petra,aqaba then they planned to go to israel.Upon ariving to the airport they did not look like professionals and something felt fishy.Airport officials would not let them out of the airport,turns out their papers were fake and they were all unskilled labor trying to find work in israel,the poor people begged to be let out of the airport,and my husband and another employee kept receiving phone calls from india offering them bribes to let them enter the country and later israel.And we are talking big money,big enough to cover the huge fines that would have been imposed on him for letting in restricted nationalities with fake papers,so you can imagine how much money they squeeze out of these poor miserable people.Life is not fair,is it?

  • Man, you do sound like a Republican 🙂 🙂 but no, I agree with not bringing anymore workers from outside, though, it’s not a good idea of shipping those who are already here back to their homes for many reasons starting form the damages it will cause to the Jordanian employers.

    I believe that the main problem that those workers are causing to us as Jordanians is the disgraceful salaries they accept, and hence, decreasing the average salaries for most employees. The “shame culture” as they used to call it in Jordan has ended since the late 90’s, though, the reason Jordanians don’t accept many jobs now is that they can’t afford a semi-decent life with the salaries offered! For Egyptions and Asians, JD100 is a fat salary, plus, they accept awful life environments(I’ve seen many with my own eyes) that even the poor in Jordan don’t accept.

  • Hamzeh, some similarities, not enough to properly compare the economic impact of illegal immigrants in Jordan. One major difference is that the U.S. has many middle class jobs which we don’t. Most of our population is made up of workers whose skills are more inclined to operate in the primary sector and the secondary sector of the economy. Plenty of laborors, farmers, etc. They are now competing with foreign workers for jobs they already don’t get paid much for anyway.

    If it wasn’t for the army I don’t know how so many people can survive.

    Think of all the places you’ve been to where there are Egyptian workers and then mentally replace them with a Jordanian. Now adjust for unemployment.

  • Hamzeh,

    Interesting that a source as left-wing as NPR would have such a level-headed analysis of illegal immigration.

    Another, more extensive treatment with similar conclusions, but from the opposite end of the political spectrum, would be:


    I find it interesting you don’t seem to trounce on those who are skeptical of illegal immigration as ‘racists’ Hamzeh. Maybe you’re not the “Rocky Mountain Taliban” like I’ve always thought. 😉

Your Two Piasters: