Religious conflict in Iraq has caused nearly two million citizens to flee their homes in hopes of finding safety in neighboring countries.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed in the ongoing conflict between the country’s Sunni and Shiite parties. Daily bombings have become a part of life, and some of Iraq’s citizens have decided that is not the life they wished to lead.
Unofficial estimates show that Iraqi refugees in Syria number nearly one million, while some 750,000 have fled their homeland in search of a better life in Jordan.
Although the majority of these refugees are struggling to make a living in their new homes, some are businessmen and wealthy traders who left Iraq with a lot of capital. Others are academics, and other prominent members of Iraq’s crumbling society.
South of Damascus, the small town of Jermana has become a popular choice for many of these Iraqi refugees. Migration to the town has doubled its population; out of its 200,000 residents, 100,000 are Iraqi refugees.
“Once you step foot in Jermana, you almost forget you are in Syria, the new residents say it has become an Iraqi town,” said a reported for the London based al-Hayat newspaper.
The Iraqi presence in Syria has caused real-estate prices to skyrocket. A furnished apartment used to cost around $300 a month; rent for such apartments has risen to around $500 a month. This has angered many Syrian citizens, who themselves struggle in paying their rent each month.
Staple food prices, as well as petrol prices, have also seen a rise since the Iraqi refugees began arriving to Syria.
“I’m against the Iraqi’s staying here for long because their permanent dwelling will cause the residents to suffer,” said Omar Shakra, a Syrian citizen. “Many of them, particularly those with means, have started purchasing stores, luxury restaurants, and travel agencies, while their poor have started working in a range of occupations,” he said.
Although official records say that around 250,000 Iraqi refugees have made Jordan their current home, unofficial estimates say the number is three times that.
Certain areas of the capital house so many Iraqi refugees that Amman’s taxi drivers refer to these areas by Iraqi names.
“We have no choice but to change the name of the kingdom from ‘The Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan’ to ‘The kingdom of refugees’,” a Jordanian official said mockingly.
The Iraqi refugees were absorbed into the country warmly enough to begin with, but Jordan’s kind attitude towards its new residents changed after the string of hotel bombings in Amman. Since then, Jordanian authorities began expelling anyone who was not in possession of a legal residence permit.
Complaints are also being heard regarding Jordan’s extremely limited natural resources and infrastructures, which are unlikely to be able to sustain the large number of Iraqi refugees arriving to the country.